2014
05.13

Faces of Brony #5201 - The Mountain Watched as I Shook the Palm.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has its fair share of formidable villains.  No, I’m not talking about the Big Bads within the series but something a bit more abstract.  Season 2’s true Big Bad was the absence of Lauren Faust from the majority part of the creative process; Season 3’s was a short 13-episode season that halfway as it was about to hit its stride, somebody started playing award show wrap-up music; and for Season 4 the show confronted the most gruesome and challenging of all enemies:

Success.

I say that because essentially My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Season 4 is one 26-episode long victory lap.  They’ve outlasted the 65 episode syndication mark and thrived without the guiding hand of Faust.  However, as they say, mo’ money mo’ problems, and that may lead to the slow but sure vanishing of the ‘suc’ from success and the inevitable appearance of ‘ex’ into a new unpleasant feature of fame…

Cesexs – which I think is a new gender orientation.  I don’t know what that has to do with ponies, but anyway…

To be sure, there’s a lot of good to be had with Season 4, although there is very little to say. That is unfortunate, but this is the kind of show that as long as it hits its emotional and entertainment core throughout whatever Saturday’s Aesopic half-hour narrative was, things would be fine. What made the show appealing should remain for the majority part unchanged but in top form. In that regard, the show dealt with much impact and gusto if you consider episodes like “Flight to the Finish”, “Rarity Takes Manehattan”, “Pinkie Pride”, “For Whom The Sweetie Belle Toils”, to name a few. These are the ones that invoke the spectre of Lauren Faust in how they focused on the virtue and vice of the characters involved, reveal a relatable cri de couer on certain issues, and bring them all together in an entertaining fashion unburdened with any maudlin sentimentality or cynicism.  Those episodes do good!  The production crew needs to keep doin’ em like that and I’ll be happy!

With that out of the way let’s talk about Success and how it leads to Cesexs.

Faces of Brony #412 - The Most Sound Trade for Reality in Exchange for contentment in Denial.

As I said above the season is one 26-episode long victory lap. Because of that, I noticed that like any nubile young Cesexssual at the cusp of attaining sexual enlightenment… it began to experiment with certain episode ideas. However the outcome led to certain stories feeling like they’re being driven less by character and more so by gimmicky contrivance. Remember how bronies were all stoked that ponies should become super heroes and fight crime in a city gone mad? Well you get it… along with some tacked on story with Spike having an existential crisis whatever. Remember how bronies were primed to turn Fluttershy into a vampire?! Well you get it… along with some tacked on story about maintaining nature vis-à-vis agrarian industry. Remember how bronies wanted multi-layered storylines with ponies having their own separate plot only to come together in a whizz-bang climax? YOU GET THAT!  …And… Nothing happened except the setup for how the Mane Six detail the lesson learned. Oh, and for some reason some Indiana Jones-esque heroine from books Rainbow Dash reads is real.

When the show veered towards that direction it sacrificed pony pathos for meaningless spectacle. They were peculiar anomalies, in that they relied on ‘what if’ antics and not on what make the show work.  It is only the concept that remains in memory, but not the memorable moments that even an average episode would have to make you remember it. What a loss, as I’ll remember Apple Bloom’s short-lived song, irate countenance, and joyous listing of things she can do when work is done with more fondness than Fluttershy Hulking out. I would wager such overt focus on meaningless spectacles diverted from actual meaningful spectacles like the Equestria Games, and gave us that incredible bomb of an episode that is less about ponifying the Olympics but about Spike having a sad again about how useless he is.

Such focus probably also explains how most of the dialogue in this season feels really expository. There always seems to be a concept eagerly sought out and put to animation, but everything else is markedly lean, especially in the script.  In certain episodes (“Three’s a Crowd” is one example), most of the prologue and first quarter of the episode is dealt with exposition about certain goings on and the action only gets started in the second half. Hell the season finale feels the same way. There’s a lot of talk about a threat and certain problems, but we are never really compelled to feel anything as most of the screen time is based on talking about it and not letting the characters have any chance to work their way through it or act.  This was to the detriment of characters like Discord (always a pleasure, but with a redemption arc so thoroughly rushed that it only occurs in the last fourth of the finale) and more importantly… Princess Twilight Sparkle.

People talk a lot about character assassination in media.  In this occurrence I’d like to talk about character chemical castration. It seems like the writers never really knew what to do with Princess Twilight. Although she is a princess, the erudite, albeit neurotic, unicorn that was eager to learn about the magic of friendship is mostly gone. In Season 4 she’s… just there. She provides herself as a useful intellectual and moral foil in some episodes, and at her best she makes for a well-meaning role model (“Twilight Time”) or a Princess who will always have something new to learn even in her new status (“Testing Testing 1, 2, 3”). Yet at her worst she provided Deus Ex Machinas that leave many a head scratched (“It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies”), and the major crux of her chemical castration: an unwarranted and unmentioned existential crisis.

Faces of Brony #1059 - I Just Fucked a Goat On the Veranda, I sure hope Senpai noticed me.

Throughout the season Twilight has been giving mixed messages about her new role. At some parts she is incredibly reluctant (both premiere and finale) and others she is modest but firm in her new position (again “Twilight Time” and “Trade Ya”). It is the first part that is galling as the finale gives the audience the biggest avoidable crisis this side of the blueballed narrative of the Equestria Games: what is Princess Twilight’s part? In the most unmemorable musical number of the entire show, all we know is that she has a sad but that’s okay says the other princesses she’ll find her part soon. While she had a lot to learn pre-princess days, Twilight exuded some form of confidence and dynamism on who she believed she was and what she needed to do. Where was this Twilight in the finale? We had her somewhat in earlier episodes but she is drained of confidence here due to the fault of the other Princesses making her feel less than welcome through her role of greeting foreign dignitaries. Then when the plot finally starts to kick in and she fights the final boss of the season, she gets a boost of confidence, everybody gets rainbow scabies to beat the boss, an aesthetically displeasing tree castle appears in the middle of a bucolic town, ponies sing and it’s happily ever after see you next season.

It’s kinda a load of bullshit, not gonna lie. There is a lot more to take issue with, like Spike’s always continuous crisis of feeling useless, Pinkie Pie being cesexsively hyper and over-the-top, and the forced inclusion and misuse of the Mane Six in episodes when not all of them needed to be there (another possible result of concepts before characters). However, I believe I have spoken enough about the flaws.

Still, Season 4 is okay. When it does great, it does exceptionally great. However the foibles and follies mentioned above really brought the season down when it did. There was too much concept, chemical castration, exposition, and needless physical presence by the Mane Six in certain episodes, and too little focus on character and by extension their actions on making certain stories work, especially when it mattered. I am not one to make policy recommendations to a creative staff, but the thoughts outlined above would work wonders if Season 5 is to surpass Season 4 (I’d also recommend the continuation of bringing new writers in, I do admire that the show keeps it fresh like that). Hopefully the euphoric high after this victory lap has subsided already, and the crew is back to work focusing on the stuff that makes the show truly work and doesn’t turn success into cesexs…

…Or maybe next season there’s a sentai parody and the ponies pilot a giant Spikezord, but not before Applejack travels to Orange Islands to buck coconuts with Aloha Pineapple, and Princess Twilight must don the Rainbow Scabies power-up again to save the Space Ponies’s Asteroid from colliding with Equestria by defeating the mysterious red masked pony Char Azneighble. Who the fuck knows?

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