Over here, I listed the grades of every single episode in the show at this point. If you followed it, several grades have changed over the past couple of months since I first submitted it, some for the better, others for the worse. To repeat from there, one of my biggest pet peeves in reviewing is to reduce the episode to a grade or score: Those who read or watch it will only skip to the score and scoot elsewhere. It’s the biggest reason why I never grade or scorecard anything in media. Even after this exercise, I’ll still forever hate it.
Nonetheless, there are two big reasons for this:
- Reduce the overarching quality of the episodes to a point beyond my own biases (or as much as possible).
- Create a best/worst-of list with the reasons why.
The latter is the biggest reason. The grades are an exercise to determining their overall quality up to a single point regardless of bias. In other words, an exercise to determining their quality objectively. Take all the valid strengths, weaknesses, and overall influences. Reduce them to one single academic grade, and then rank them from best to worst.
Right now, I’ll give you my current ten favorite and least-favorite episodes in order, starting with my ten least-favorites:
- Rainbow Falls
- Equestria Games
- Just for Sidekicks
- The Mysterious Mare Do Well
- Owl’s Well That Ends Well
- Somepony to Watch Over Me
- Flight to the Finish
- Hearts and Hooves Day
- Sweet and Elite
- Bridle Gossip
And my ten favorites:
- Testing Testing 1, 2, 3
- Magic Duel
- Sleepless in Ponyville
- Pinkie Pride
- Party of One
- The Return of Harmony, Part 2
- Winter Wrap Up
- Suited for Success
- The Best Night Ever
- Pinkie Apple Pie
Many of the episodes you see on both lists won’t be featured in the bottom and top tens. Flight to the Finish, an episode I hate, wouldn’t crack the bottom thirty. In fact, it’d possibly crack the top twenty-five: Despite the one-dimensional antagonists, it approaches the outcome very maturely and with a magnificent payoff at the end.
At this point, these are the episodes with a grade of “F”:
- Boast Busters
- Bridle Gossip
- The Show Stoppers
- Owl’s Well That Ends Well
- May the Best Pet Win!
- The Mysterious Mare Do Well
- The Last Roundup (edited) (As I’m only focusing on the uncensored versions, this won’t qualify; if I was, this’d be the second-worst episode for obvious reasons.)
- Putting Your Hoof Down
- Dragon Quest
- The Crystal Empire
- One Bad Apple
- Spike at Your Service
- Games Ponies Play
- Daring Don’t
- Rainbow Falls
- Somepony to Watch Over Me
- Equestria Games
And now the episodes graded “A-” or higher (the A-minuses are in italics):
Winter Wrap Up
- Suited for Success
The Cutie Mark Chronicles
- Party of One
- The Best Night Ever
The Return of Harmony
- Lesson Zero
- Sisterhooves Social
- Sleepless in Ponyville
- Pinkie Pride
For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils
- Testing Testing 1, 2, 3
To put it in simpler terms, I’m a very hard grader. Hell, most of my B’s would be A-minuses (or even A’s) depending on the brony analyst you’re watching. (Conversely, many of them would grade Apple Family Reunion a C, C-, or D+, while I gave it a B-.) The reasons why I grade so harshly is twofold:
- There’s a standard DHX imposes on the audience and itself. Part of its mission statement its to deliver quality family-friendly entertainment within an era full of really bad cartoons to an audience to prove parents, especially ones of young girls, that quality exists. Despite many shortcomings, they never relented this mission.
As a critic, I’m obliging to follow that up by reviewing them through similarly tough standards, as well. Family shows have very low standards collectively, and if anyone’s going to want to change that, then harsh standards must be placed. Far too many people want to try to tell me, “I’m taking it too seriously.” I already called out the lazy “it’s for kids” excuse (and the population that uses it). I’m keeping my foot down and putting those standards out there for everyone to see.
- Anecdotally, the best classes I ever took graded my work very harshly. The hard graders pushed me to work beyond my own expectations, and I exited the classes with a lot more knowledge and respect for not only the fields, but also the professors who taught me. The Senior Project is my proudest (and best class I took, in my opinion): Of the seventy who took it, I was only one of four to get an A. If you can tell, those tough standards ebb on me.
If the episode gets an A, then it must truly hit the mark. It must be the cream of the crop; it must be done well. If plenty of in-the-middle — or at least a couple of really big — problems hold the episode back logically, morally, or narratively, then your grade will suffer, and the episode’s quality drops.
This is why popular episodes like Twilight’s Kingdom, A Canterlot Wedding, Green Isn’t Your Color, Sonic Rainboom, Hurricane Fluttershy, Magic Duel, Flight to the Finish, or Rarity Takes Manehattan will not qualify for the “best of” list.
Now, the question: Where do they — the best and worst above — fall? What episodes will fall out of the bottom and top tens?
Before I go on, a few warnings:
- Despite being as objective as possible, it won’t be perfect. There will be some form of emotional attachment either on the positive or negative end. If it’s positive, the text will rave and praise these episodes and the content within. If not, then it’ll be criticized hard, and I won’t pull back any punches.
- This list is subject to change. Season five won’t come until at least around Thanksgiving, and any of those episodes could take place on these lists at some point in the future. More importantly, any of the episodes I did not fail already could be included in this list someday.
For example, I’m still seriously considering failing Ponyville Confidential and MMMystery. If I do, how will that affect the bottom ten? We’ll have to wait and see.
Instead of doing the typical lists, I’ll pair the numbers up, starting with the tenth-worst above and then the tenth best below it, followed by ninth-worst/ninth-best, and so on. Because of the humongous quantity of text, it’s split into three parts.
Each part will be linked in a foreword atop the blog, a note down at the bottom, and this small list here.
So, let’s begin!
Tenth-worst: Equestria Games
Friendship Is Magic’s version of Truth or Square, only much shorter and much less worse. The biggest reason this episode fails is how it not only doesn’t live up to the hype of the Games, but also blatantly spits on the expectations set up by both the continuity and advertisement. Fifteen months of build-up for the Games gone in a snap just to focus on a very marginal Spike episode. Yeah, sure, the rest of the Games arc sucked, but that doesn’t give the teams of DHX, Hasbro, or The Hub the license to ignore it until the contrived climax. I could ignore the hype and focus on the stuff shown instead, but that’d be insulting to not only the grand narrative of the overarching plot, but also the audience expectations leading to the Equestria Games. Expectations the show relied on up to the episode.
And, yes, you heard me right. It’s not a good Spike in the slightest. The exposition was blunt and spewed out within the first five to seven minutes. Spike’s characterization took a nosedive following his in-character stage fright, starting with the daft concept of mentally lighting the torch. To make things worse, he became an even bigger butt of jokes by botching up the Cloudesdale anthem when he knows damn well he wasn’t completely prepared for this kind of task. He never truly earned his way to redeem himself, either; the climax and buildup were set up so he can arrive by chance to save everyone. If you’re going to try to have a character redeem him or herself, don’t write the laziest idea possible. And actually have him learn the lesson rather than having him be told it to his face.
And the best way to tell how lazy this episode was how the Games added nothing to not just the episode, but Spike’s confidence conflict outright, too. Because the ponified Olympics was so far in the background, the setting could’ve been anything, and you wouldn’t have to change a thing to the conflict beyond three points. The setting was window-dressing for an unrelated conflict and moral.
If you want to see an expanded analysis/review of the episode, head over here.
Equestria Games is the episode where overarching plotting under Meghan McCarthy officially jumps the shark. If she’s going to lead the team into another for season five, then she and the rest of DHX need to do a much better job developing one that’s more coherent and better written in general. Quite frankly, every S4 arc sucked; this one sucked the most.
Tenth-best: The Return of Harmony
It’s the only two-parter to qualify anywhere close to the “best-of” list. (Twilight’s Kingdom is closest with a B-.) The pilot gave an interesting start, but it’s hurt by some really bad storytelling. ACW is full of massive holes in logic, plotting, and intelligence, making the episode much weaker than most people believe. Twilight’s Kingdom is McCarthy’s best two-parter, but it’s full of the same issues, yet the conclusion is more satisfactory.
Here, so much stuff worked. The comedy hit their mark. The characterization hit the mark. The purpose of having the Elements of Harmony hit its mark, and Larson made it very clear why the Mane Six (under a clear state) held the jewelry, not anyone else.
What about the Discorded ponies? They were unbelievably, unpleasantly funny. Each of them mirror who they don’t want to be.
Rainbow Dash: Rainbow Ditch
Pinkie Pie: Grumpy Pie
Twilight Sparkle: Twilight Quitter
But it wasn’t because they immediately quit. Discord slowly yet surely manipulated them, convincing them into becoming Discorded ponies, and they became more Discorded when they became crueler. The only reason Discord couldn’t manipulate Fluttershy is to reference her becoming willfully incorruptible and more sure-minded, a concept subtly referenced in Keep Calm and Flutter On.
But the best part is Discord — the best villain in the show. He wasn’t evil for evil’s sake. His goal was pure and continuous: the ability to recreate chaos whenever he wants. He could throw a punch, but like what Batbrony once said, Discord feels he’s above that and prefers to play mind games instead. His characterization was completely hilarious; he was never in the same place twice and had an ego bigger than Montana.
But besides that, what makes him such a credible villain is the ability to take his wit and hilarity and spin it into something much, much darker. He may not be as imposing as Tirek, but it’s silent and slow. His slitherin’ words, ambitious personality, manipulation, and capability of keeping his goal fresh make him more convincing, menacing and evil than any other FIM villain.
There are two reasons why it’s on the bottom of the top ten:
- Act 3 of Part 2 is really rushed. After all the buildup, you have everything solved very quickly through a DEM (Twilight’s memory spell) and an anticlimactic climax. Of course, plenty of it makes up for it somewhat, like Fluttershy’s “That…big…dumb…MEANIE!”, and the clever “New Hope” reference.
- Discord’s introduction and backstory have very little substance. Here it is in its entirety:
The backstory’s so simple, without the foreshadowing from the prologue, it would’ve been much more noticeable than it truly is.
Princess Celestia: Discord is the mischievous spirit of disharmony. Before my sister and I stood up to him, he ruled Equestria in an eternal state of unrest and unhappiness. Luna and I saw how miserable life was for Earth ponies, Pegasi, and unicorns alike, so after discovering the Elements of Harmony, we combined our powers and rose up against him, turning him to stone.
Rainbow Dash: All right, Princess!
Princess Celestia: I thought the spell we cast would keep him contained forever, but since Luna and I are no longer connected to the Elements, the spell has been broken.
Twilight Sparkle: No longer connected?
Princess Celestia: This is Canterlot Tower, where the Elements are kept inside since all of you recovered them. I need you to wield the Elements of Harmony once again and stop Discord before he thrusts all of Equestria into eternal chaos.
Ninth-worst: The Show Stoppers
There are episodes that risk destroying a character’s reputation. The Show Stoppers is one such example, and I’ll talk about this a little bit more later. Stare Master got off rather well with their obnoxiousness (although there, it was written as a negative, so that wasn’t an absolute flaw).
TSS dials their personalities backwards by making them not just oblivious, but completely stupid. Their talents were revealed no less than two minutes in, and the episode obnoxiously plasters that massage wherever it could, partly for humor. But it isn’t in those montages exclusively. That message was blatant via the poorly choreographed talent show, the poorly written song to go with it, and their obliviousness after the friendship report was written.
Like Snips and Snails in Boast Busters, The Show Stoppers accentuates their obliviousness into implausible levels. Stupidity this extreme isn’t funny. It’s as crass and unintelligent as flatulence humor.
By shoving their talents in so early, their journey becomes a waste of time to the audience’s point of view, and the show plays The Waiting Game since then. Your audience isn’t going to be so patient for so long; there’s a reason why several bronies are wondering when they’ll get their cutie marks and why some got rather annoyed at the false close-up in Flight to the Finish. The game is repetitive and tiring, and all it does is age TSS even more and make it look worse. You can make a guess why Twilight Time (the second-best CMC episode) altered their direction by expanding their potential into other fields.
Of course, there’s Twilight being shoehorned. But compared to how dumb Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo were, Twilight’s appearance was nothing. Combine everything to how the episode ended with back to where we started (minus the completion of the clubhouse), it becomes poorly written filler that sets back the Cutie Mark Crusaders and enforces a really terrible first impression for the child characters.
If there’s a saving grace to this episode, it’s how The Show Stoppers risked ruining their reputation. In season one, the characters offered little to separate one from the other minus their voices. Even though they’re kids, they’re so oblivious to the point of annoying and redundant. Fortunately, future episodes fought back and made them much more likeable, like Sisterhooves Social, Sleepless in Ponyville, Flight to the Finish, and Twilight Time.
Ninth-best: For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils
Season four was easily Polsky’s best season as FIM writer. Toils was his apex, and it’s the last A- episode in the top-ten.
- The conflict is very believable, and when you look back and think about it, it’s such a genius idea. Through all the tension, even without SB blurting out the “fifth birthday” comparison, Sweetie Belle had obviously lived under her bigger sister’s shadow for some time and was becoming sick of it. When Rarity’s fantastic dresses overshadowed the play she worked hard on, it was as if her work became null. So it made plenty of sense for Sweetie to ignore the consequences of her actions and destroy the headdress. She was wrong for her actions, and the script punished her for that, but she was presented very sympathetically despite being in the wrong.
- Plenty of script space is dedicated to coming up with a believable approach to the conflict and then boiling over. Polsky doesn’t dump the conflict in the first two minutes. There’s actual tension in this episode thanks to the buildup in both the writing and sound.
- Rarity’s strengths and (by association) a very discreet flaw are highlighted. Rarity is extremely generous and goes beyond the call of duty to make others happy, making the dresses better than Sweetie wanted thanks to her very strict standards of quality. *glares at some other season four episode* Simultaneously, she loves being praised and isn’t afraid to show off an ego perhaps bigger than Dash’s given the right context. Because those strict standards and vanity accompany her, she’s oblivious to the accusations of greed for the spotlight despite never being the case. You don’t see this flaw to her character because you don’t think about it; it comes off as natural, so it’s easily overlooked. But then critically consider the context — you’ll wonder how long it took for DHX to put it on display.
- Minus one moment where a new puppet would’ve worked, the animation during Sweetie’s nightmare was well done. The transitions were atypical, but worked brilliantly because this all takes place in her dreams; reality bending is justifiable here. Plus, they were all very smooth, allowing the episode to flow from one scene to another without becoming forced. It sets up not only the moral, but the eventual “tough love” consequences Luna and Sweetie’s conscience imposed on her.
- Speaking of the consequences, her nightmare is one of the best cases of “show, don’t tell” in the show’s running. Rather than letting Luna tell Sweetie what they are, she and her conscience foisted them directly and had her linger and torment more-than-likely hyperbole. Then again, seeing as Rarity can be a big drama queen, her outcome and reaction aren’t as farfetched as we might think.
(BTW, excellent twist of the Christmas Carol. )
- Polsky and crew cleverly tied in Luna’s actions presented in both the pilot and Princess Twilight Sparkle to this episode. It makes Luna’s plight much more personal and relatable, as she suffered long-term consequences for her jealous rage. For those who are sticklers to continuity, it establishes credibility for the moral conceptually and thematically. Without that relatable connection, “don’t jump to conclusions/don’t let anger influence you to do something you might regret later in life” would become very weak.
- OptimisticNeighsayer makes a great point with the title. “Toils” cleverly foreshadows what type of conflict Sweetie Belle faces and how she must solve it. Initially, she toils for her selfishness and will to be just as equal as Rarity albeit handling it poorly. After realizing her grievousness, she toils for Rarity, told her what she wanted to do, and rectified the wrong.
The biggest reasons it’s down at ninth, though, are these:
- It doesn’t establish the limits to Luna’s dreamwalking powers. Sleepless in Ponyville didn’t make it very clear by introducing them out of nowhere, and they were expanded even more here. You have to be very careful with how much you can extend Luna’s dreamwalking powers before it becomes overpowered and morally questionable.
- The beginning of the episode exposits Sweetie telling the audience how much she worked on the play. Fortunately, they made up for it with the strong conflict.
- The DEM of Sweetie trespassing Shores’s studio to retrieve the box.
- Two plot holes: Sweetie knowing the hidden stitch despite not being there to hear it, and Sweetie letting AB and SL in through the same door Lockdown guarded.
Nonetheless, the good more than outweigh the bad, and Sweetie Belle grew exponentially as a character here. It was in character, tense, hilarious, and thoroughly phenomenal. Here, Twilight Time, and Rarity Takes Manehattan proved how great a writer he is despite his shortcomings. More of these and less of Daring Don’t, EG, and Games Ponies Play, the better.
Eighth-worst: The Mysterious Mare Do Well
Back when I first watched it, it was the first episode I hated, and I still hate it. There are several reasons this one’s terrible.
- The worldbuilding is extremely contrived. What was basically a small town or village expanded into some random death trap just to serve the plot.
- The storytelling is extremely repetitive. Everything is divided into the Three Strikes Formula.
Dash saving lives? Three strikes.
The others showing her up? Three strikes.
Dash doing stupid things? Three strikes.
Dash chasing the MDW? Three strikes.
It’s insultingly formulaic and makes the pace both too fast AND too slow simultaneously.
- The characters are all VERY out of character. Rainbow Dash was OOC because she turned into a bragging dumbass. (If this was supposed to show her being incredibly insecure, this crap did a damn bad job at that for flanderizing her. If you believe otherwise, you’re fooling yourself.) The ReMane-ing Five were out of character for blatantly antagonizing her and becoming extremely vindictive during a time where Ponyville is dangerous to live in. (Via the approach to the conflict and moral, the script and ReMane Five treated their lives as a game!) Scootaloo — who was devoted to Dash at the time — was out of character for jumping the bandwagon so quickly.
- This episode suffers from Boast Busters Syndrome.
In BB, Trixie was written as the antagonist, and we were supposed to root for Twilight and the Mane Six altogether. But Trixie was performing before a crowd and embellishing her talents to create illusions. Rarity, AJ, and Dash were out-of-character, antagonistic idiots and got some much-needed humble pie, only they didn’t learn anything from it. Trixie unnecessarily lost her home and the ability to create a living, which only happened to drag this thin plot out to twenty minutes. Instead of making Trixie antagonistic, she looked sympathetic amongst the “Mane Six” who were as smart as flies.
MDW suffered from this same problem. DHX treated Dash as the antagonist, but the Mane Six deserve as much of the blame as (or more than) Dash for being so out of character. Also, Dash had reasons to brag: She was saving lives, and she was finally receiving recognition for what she did.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the last episode on this list to hinge on this tired flaw.
- The moral itself is poorly written. Because the base demographic is five-year-old children, one of the best ways to let it sink in is to let the characters learn it for themselves. Mare Do Well accomplishes the opposite. Rainbow Dash was too dumb to learn the moral on her own, so the ReMane-ing Five told her to her face in the final two minutes or so in the episode.
a. That’s terrible teaching. Rainbow Dash never learned her lesson one bit. Learn by example. Show, don’t tell.
b. Because it was told to her, that lesson will travel through one ear and out the other in the eyes of the audience. Make the lesson stick by having the character learn it through the process.
c. The Aesop is broken. Rainbow Dash was told to show more humility in her accomplishments. Well, then, why did you have to act like major hypocrites throughout the whole conflict, particularly in the Sugarcube Corner scene? Also, why didn’t you, I don’t know, go and ask Dash to tone it down a tad, because her ego was rubbing them the wrong way?
(There’s the argument that Dash would’ve ignored them, after all. A little advice: If you have to assume Dash would ignore them, then you’re operating on headcanon to plug in holes. When this happens, you have a glaring plot hole in front of you.)
Like Mare Do Well, four others told the moral directly to the audience. All of them have F grades, and two of them are on this list. Equestria Games is one of them. Guess the other.
Eighth-best: Sleepless in Ponyville
Also known as the best episode in season three. Several things worked really well. The gags were hilarious, especially the G3 reference. Every character was in character, and they all were given a near-perfect amount of time for exploration. (Rarity was the closest for her tit-for-tat gag to Sweetie Belle, but it didn’t cross it.) If you’re into the skillset of animation and background visuals, SiP is pornographic; the sharp perspectives and evil yellow eyes in Act 2 cross into Nightmare Fuel territory thanks to Scootaloo’s fears and subconscious playing mind games.
The pacing? Easily the best of season three minus Wonderbolts Academy.
But the best part? The ending where Rainbow Dash agrees to be Scootaloo’s mentor. To quote from my SiP review:
The emotion and chemistry brewing in the night scene is raw, and it makes the viewer want to cheer them on and embrace their newly created chemistry.
Until this point, Dash's characterization was easily on the upswing, just approaching a moment just like this. When she admitted the campfire stories once scared her as a filly, it illustrated raw characterization and growth that breaks through the tomcolt façade she's built over the course of the series as well as her lifetime. While that's obviously never going away (or not completely anytime soon), that scene proves her growth since the pilot.
(Of course, one episode later, Dash is featured in Wonderbolts Academy, quite possibly her best episode yet.)
Meanwhile, it also completes one of Scootaloo's biggest missions: to be Rainbow Dash's protégé. Since the beginning, she has the competitive edge and tomcoltish characterization along with the desire to be like Dash. It took nearly two full seasons (including a couple of crappy episodes early in season two ), but the ending brings her first journey full circle, as it should be.
Four things bog it down:
- Rarity’s nonchalant attitude towards Sweetie’s slapsticky struggles from pulling the cart. Sure, it’s in character of her, but part of FIM’s purpose is to make the main characters likeable. This teeters into a part of Rarity’s character that could make some dislike her and view her as petty. If you’re looking into liking Rarity, this may not be the episode for you. (A thoroughly worse episode, Spike at Your Service, makes her more likeable.)
- A lack of clarity behind Luna’s dreamwalking powers and Rainbow Dash’s realization that Scootaloo was in danger. the composition gives a clue, but it’s too vague, treating the rescue as a DEM.
- Lack of realism when starting a campfire.
- Applejack’s dangerous suggestion to sleep in an unsupervised cave in the wild during the night.
This is the only episode in the whole lot where you can definitely drop it to an A-. While it’s hyperbolic to call it one of the worst episodes of the show, the story definitely needs more refinement. But what’s good does really well, and it’s those fantastic pluses where it barely deserves the A.
Seventh-worst: Owl’s Well That Ends Well
The first Spike-centric episode, and did his potential for an episode starring him screw up immediately.
- The “Who” joke is incredibly forced and got old very quickly. It failed when it started. It fails now. It’s the Wilhelm scream of FIM. Cut that crap out!
- This whole episode is one gigantic cliché uncorked. It’s the “he’s-jealous-because-he-feels-he’ll-be-replaced” cliché, only to have Spike feel uncharacteristically jealous of Owlowiscious. It’s a cliché rarely done correctly, and it wasn’t done correctly here. If you want to write a jealousy story, at least deviate and make it both in character and plausible without making one character look bad.
…So why the hell did Green Isn’t Your Color air FOUR episodes ago?!
In that one, Rarity began to feel very jealous of Fluttershy because she was inadvertently overshadowing Rarity’s hard work. However, she felt very bad, because Fluttershy was her friend, and she was happy to see her succeed. So when she tried to screw her, Rarity got screwed. All it needed was for Fluttershy and Rarity to admit their feelings about the whole charade to end Rarity’s jealousy. (It’s not in the top ten because the B plot of Twilight and Pinkie elongated the conflict far more than it should, robbing the episode of some focus.)
- Spike is out of character. Not for covering up the burnt book, but his actions into wanting to get rid of Owlowiscious. Twilight made it clear that the new assistant was just that. A “junior assistant” to help out Spike. And he reacted rather apprehensively instead of relieving. Then the paper-thin plot plods forward into making him antagonistic beyond what he was capable of at the time.
On the other hand, his apprehension and jealousy were justified, which makes him in character simultaneously. Firstly, Owlowiscious shows up out of nowhere and borrows Spike’s role, one he’s damn proud of. To make it worse, the Mane Six’s attitude towards the owl was unbelievably petty: They knew Spike since the pilot, but the ReMane-ing Five never met Owlowiscious. If you’re that impressed so early for one character and not another, your trust for one another gets severed.
The script abuses Spike, and he doesn’t deserve it one bit. OWTEW suffers a lot from BBS by turning Spike into an antagonist and Owlowiscious a protagonist. Instead, it makes you feel sorry for Spike instead because the lazy comedy is at his expense.
(By the way, don’t dare bullshit me that Spikabuse is okay here because previous episodes made him a buttmonkey. Two words: It’s not. The Spikabuse in those episodes factually makes the Spikabuse in Owl’s Well look worse for the reasons outlined above.)
- And the final excuses nails Owl’s Well’s coffin shut. If Twilight wanted Owlowiscious to be her nighttime assistant, then how come seventy-five percent of the story takes place during the day, and why does Owlowiscious torment Spike? It makes Twilight out of character, pushy, petty, and stupid. Not to mention breaking the conflict and Aesop.
With the exception of Secret of My Excess and Inspiration Manifestation (to an extent), every single Spike episode is bad. OWTEW is a particular brand of awful, because it all but ruined Spike’s potential for future episodes. It tries to be funny, but it’s too mean-spirited, and Spike doesn’t deserve any of the punishment. If it was written far better, then there could’ve been a much better impression of Spike as a thorough character. Instead, the engine all but died, and DHX has to rely on him being a secondary role to shine (e.g., Lesson Zero, Equestria Girls, Simple Ways).
Seventh-best: Suited for Success (Lauren Faust’s favorite episode)
Contrary to Putting Your Hoof Down, Charlotte Fullerton’s best episode perfectly exemplifies how to create fans of a certain character. Here, it’s Rarity, and it’s this episode where her Element of Generosity is not only put to the test, but excels when needed, too.
Firstly, this demonstrates a really delicate, but nice nod to The Ticket Master, only expanding and improving the overarching plot (which doesn’t get put back on the forefront until the finale and only hinted through the conflicts and morals in between). Opalescence makes her debut, too, and right away, the cat has an attitude, but she means well and is quite likeable.
But other stuff works well, too.
- Art of the Dress. Need I say more about it?
…Ohhhhh, all right.
The lyrics are divine. Not only are the meters well written, but they’re very in character of the worldbuilding, conflict, ReMane-ing Five, and Rarity. Each organic line respects Putting It Together, the musical number Art of the Dress honors.
This is also the episode that really takes advantage of FIM’s early use of flash animation. You can tell the storyboarders and animators had a lot of fun creating the music video and putting it into life. Through the interesting cues of the animation and scene transitions, it keeps the viewing experience very fresh now as it was back in 2011.
There’s very great commentary towards the executive meddling (and freelance) system. Most of DHX is a collection of freelance writers; they do a lot of work beyond both FIM and Hasbro and complete their work for other clients. Each of the ReMane-ing Five behaved like the clients they all experienced. Personally, as someone who’s been taught of the design industry (and I’m going back to get a Master’s in this field to expand my experience), it makes Rarity very relatable, especially as her generosity (and the ReMane-ing Five’s bad behavior) temporarily derailed her career.
- Speaking of the animation, it’s easily some of the best in the show, not just season one. Compare this to Winter Wrap Up, Look Before You Sleep, and Boast Busters. The animation quality in those three are quite low. Suited for Success exceeded those expectations and put forth a bunch of effort into getting it as refined as possible at the time.
According to Digibro’s analysis video of this episode, he watched DVD commentary, and he said Faust storyboarded the final fashion show to get it the way she wanted. I don’t have the DVD to watch the commentary, but I thoroughly believe it. Because Faust’s intentions for this series was to subvert expectations and concepts seen in previous female-oriented broadcasts, SfS sticks to those goals very well.
- The ReMane-ing Five learn their lesson and grow from their experience. They were demanding, and it was quick to point out how they were wrong with taking advantage of Rarity’s generosity. They meant well and don’t cross into being out of character, but they were definitely antagonistic. To see them humiliated was poetic justice, and having to regain Rarity’s trust the hard way was beautiful. They made a dumb mistake without being out of character, suffered the consequences, and rectified the errors of their ways.
If there are a few things that hold it back from ascending, it’s these two reasons:
- The original fashion show appears on really short notice. A little more foreshadowing would’ve settled that part of the conflict more organically in the episode. By having Hoity Toity and the fashion show pop up out of nowhere, the plot point and conflict itself become partially artificial.
- The suddenly demanding attitudes of the ReMane Five are semi-uncharacteristic. Not in a way that’s out of character or unlikeable. But they met the standard personalities of the clients to a “T.” It didn’t exactly mesh with their personalities all that well, making the contrivance very noticeable.