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S4 is here!!! Go check out Tommy Oliver’s channel, he was half of this video! http://www.youtube.com/user/bronycurious
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Digi: Did you see the part where Luna was like
Tom: And Discord’s all like
Digi: And Celestia’s like PRINCESS TWILIGHT
Tom: And then– and then–!!! AAAAGH
Tom: (out of breath) okay… glad we got that out of our systems.
Digi: Let’s do this thing!
Digi: Right off the bat, I’m gonna call this the second-best two-part episode in the show, right after the Return of Harmony. In terms of concept and execution, it stands high above most of the show’s plot and adventure-centric arcs. This is the first time MLP seems to be sure-handedly setting out to deliver a narrative and establish a firm continuity.
Tom: It does so through a number of surprisingly welcome ret-cons, showing that the writers may have recognized some of the plot incongruencies of the previous seasons, and sought to more firmly establish the core narrative moving forward. I know a lot of us were hoping that Twilight’s flight scene at the end of Magical Mystery Cure was some kind of weird fluke, as Equestria Girls seemed to establish. The writers have delivered on tying Twilight’s wings into her new character arc of learning to become a proper ruler.
Digi: There’s also a sense of subtly rebooting the Discord redemption arc from its original rushed form into a more broad take towards proper reformation. If we subbed out the end of Keep Calm and Flutter On where Discord seems to have made a full change of heart and imagine a more subtle attempt to play along, his attitude in the new season is closer to what would result. He still seems to be tricky and mysterious, with a sense that he’s not reformed at heart, but has the potential to be. Letting him off of the Elements of Harmony leash will mean a much more interesting character arc, and he might even get to be reformed as a recurring character, EXACTLY as I said should have been done in the first place. If they deliver on the Discord narrative I always wanted, I’m going to be fucking ecstatic.
Tom: The plot developments surrounding the journey for the six keys also suggests a lot more adventure to come out of this season. We’ll probably be seeing many new locations across Equestria. Moreover, the six keys storyline suggests that each pony will have their own little adventure to get their key. This is great because historically, the show’s adventure arcs tend to focus on Twilight Sparkle, so now each pony should get their own adventure in the limelight. Say it with me folks: Full. Season. Story. Arc. I’m actually kind of surprised at how hype I am for this concept, since I usually am not a fan of the adventure arcs, but thats usually due to pacing. If they can keep a continuing narrative going the entire season though, time constraints should no longer be an issue. I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to pull this off.
Digi: The premiere episodes altogether carried this big sense of fresh beginnings. These retcons and story structure setups lay the groundwork of a stronger season-long narrative. The whole episode deals with looking back both on what’s happened before in the series, and even looking back into the history of Equestria, as if the the show were setting its past affairs in place so that it could cast off into new territory. The arc of learning the magic of friendship is over, Twilight is an alicorn now. So the questions are, how does friendship persist? What happens when friends begin to change and grow into their adult roles? In this episode, we see the first signs of Twilight stepping into her role as a princess, as well as the first glimpses and worries about how this could effect the group dynamic.
Altogether, this premiere has laid an amazing groundwork for the season to come, along with being a superb episode in its own right! Don’t you agree, Tom?
Tom: Yeah! (sort of falters at the end)
Digi: I feel like there’s something you’re not telling me…
Tom: No, it’s nothing! The episode is great! I’m really excited about season 4.
Tom: *sigh* Up until they entered the Everfree Forest, the pacing was the best it’s ever been in a My Little Pony story episode… and then, it…
Digi: It’s okay, Tom. You can say it. This is a safe place.
Tom: THE PACING WENT TO SHIT. Friendship is Magic has a long history of dropping the ball in the third act when it comes to these multi-part stories, and while the issue is less distracting here than it was in the Mane 6’s last foray into the Everfree, it does still stumble a bit. I think the problem for me stems from an emotional disconnect due to, yet again, poor pacing. The entire first episode subtly leads up to this confrontation that happens in the Everfree, with the Remane 5 continually showing that they still haven’t come to terms with Twilight being a Princess, and are still trying to figure out how to handle her new position. When shit gets real, they no longer see her as just their friend, but now an important asset to all of Equestria, and begin weighing this aspect into their decision-making, hence their suggestion for Twi to stay in Ponyville, lest something happen to her as well. Dejected, Twilight takes off, but Discord of all characters convinces her to reunite with her friends.
The problem is that this series of events in the episode barely takes longer to play out than my quick summary. We go from confrontation, to sadness, to rekindled vigor in the span of two minutes, and as a result, none of these emotional states have any time to establish themselves and resonate with the viewer. So this entire segment, thats supposed to be the emotional crux of this story arc, completely falls flat and carries very little weight. *SOBBING*
Digi: It’s okay, Tom. It’s okay. No episode is perfect. Except Applebuck Season.
Tom: And Suited For Success.
Digi: That one too.
Tom: You saw it too, right? Surely you recognized some flaws!
Digi: But of course. The episode’s emotional climax happens way too quickly and has almost no kick. The overprotectiveness and increased regard for Twilight is established early on, but it doesn’t pay off in a meaningful way. Twilight’s friends had a legitimate point with their argument in the forest, but it wasn’t explored with any depth. If there’s a lesson in this episode, I didn’t learn it, and all the callbacks to season one, while cool, didn’t amount to much emotionally.
I also thought the magical plot device potion was straight out of nowhere. There could’ve at least been some form of subtle foreshadowing of Zecora’s appearance, or even of the potion itself. You’d think Twilight would worry about her secondary mentor’s safety considering her home is in danger. However, as you said during our simultaneous livetweet extravaganza, the contrivance was worth it for the plot developments.
Tom: And let’s touch on those badass plot elements for sure!
Digi: Holy balls, he’s alive again!
Tom: This arc was jam packed with tons of worldbuilding and fleshed out a lot of the lore that the series has referenced and touched upon over the last three seasons, but never really got around to going into. The most obvious instances of this are the flashbacks that Twilight was privy to as a result of the Plot Device Potion. Getting a glimpse at Everfree in its prime, seeing the battle of Nightmare Moon vs Celestia (with a DBZ-style energy wave clash no less), and even a look at Discord’s downfall and the beginning of the Celestial Sister’s reign were all awesome bits of lore that finally have some legitimate grounding from the show itself. However, I think by far the most interesting point on display was the Tree of Harmony.
My mind just started going in a billion different directions with this thing. The fact that the Elements weren’t just an ancient artifact that The Celestial Sisters discovered without consequence just makes the Elements themselves so much more interesting. Their retrieval was a conscious act of desperation; they were the only weapons powerful enough to take on Discord, and yet, it seems that Celestia and Luna knew that removing them from the Tree was a risk, knowing that it would be weakened as a result. The duo intentionally chose long term consequence in order to provide short term results. The Elements were a gambit, not just mere objects of inconsequential salvation. This episode began answering a question I didn’t think the show would ever even bother addressing: The source of magic in Equestria. The Tree of Harmony is, by all accounts, the most powerful living thing in the world of My Little Pony. It’s not only what keeps the magic of the Everfree Forest at bay, but also what produced the Elements of Harmony themselves, up to this point unconquerable magical artifacts. The existence of the Tree goes a long way to humble the Celestial Sisters, and Alicorns in general, as they are much smaller in scale than what we may have first expected. Celestia and Luna had nothing to do with the creation or the unlocking of the Elements, they were merely borrowing the power of a superior force.
Another interesting question to consider: If Discord, the reigning creature at the time of this occurrence, is the Spirit of Chaos, is the Tree the Spirit of Harmony, and thus Discord’s opposite? MLP seems to imply that the two forces in it’s universe are Chaos and Harmony. Discord obviously is the representation of Chaos, and up until this point it seemed that Celestia and Luna were Harmony, and then the Mane 6 once the Elements passed to them. However, the Tree itself is stronger than all of these characters combined. The cast that we’ve been following for the past 3 seasons aren’t the embodiments of Harmony, merely it’s right hand. If this is the case, then it may also explain why the Elements of Harmony were effective against Discord when nothing else was; the Ruling Sisters took the Tree of Harmony’s “fruit” and used their power against its inverse. Discord, the spirit of Chaos.
Digi: Cool Story, bro. You know what I really loved about this ep? The presentation!
Tom: You would. Not that I disagree.
Digi: Friendship Is Magic has looked great from day one, but there’s been a marked progression of quality as it goes along. The season 4 premiere has been polished to a mirror shine that could contend with some of the best-looking hand-drawn shows on TV. The Celestia and Luna models seem to have been subtly touched-up, and there’s a very grand sense of framing that pervades even more of the episode than usual. The effects are totally badass, with scene after scene of unique and atmospheric lighting. These are easily the most visually tonal episodes of the show.
And can I reiterate that up until the unfortunate Everfree Forest scenes, the episode has this amazingly natural flow like nothing the series has ever achieved. One of the show’s strong points has always been to contain very fast jokes and character moments that don’t break the flow of the episode, often happening on the other part of the screen from whoever’s talking. There’s this scene in front of the town hall in part one that shows all the characters interacting so naturally that I have to take a step back and remember that this is a thing which a team of people made, and not just an organically occurring situation.
Tom: Mmm. Indeed. Hey, you know what I love? I love how Applejack and Rarity get the most support dialog in this episode. You know, the roles they’ve always been best to fill.
Digi: You know what I love? How all the dudes in this episode sound like they eat gravel for breakfast and lunch.
Tom: You know what I love? How spike has slowly turned into the deadpan version of Pinkie Pie, with his fourth wall breaks and access to hammerspace.
Digi: You know what I love? I love how Twilight’s freakouts now have altitude!
Tom: You know what I love? My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic!
Digi: You know what I love? (turn to audience) All of you. Thanks for watching, and stay tuned for more weekly videos on both of our channels, as we analyze MLP:FiM Season 4!