It’s time to bring together all the disparate threads of the Bookend Diaries. (It’s mostly because I like round numbers. 0 and 8 are my favorites). I will consider the Premieres and Finales separately, and rank them in each category from worst to best. Since villains tend to take centre stage in these episodes, I’ll rank them too.
Premieres: Friendship is Magic; Return of Harmony; The Crystal Empire; Princess Twilight Sparkle
Finales: The Best Night Ever; A Canterlot Wedding; Magical Mystery Cure; Twilight’s Kingdom
Yes, I know I previously left out The Best Night Ever, and even opined that it shouldn’t be considered the Season 1 Finale. I haven’t changed my mind, as such, but since it technically did air as the final episode of Season 1, for the sake of completeness, I’ve added it in there.
The Season Premieres
Friendship is Magic
Ironically, the pilot episode is in my opinion the weakest of the premieres, and almost the weakest episode in Season 1. I understand it needed to introduce the characters and set up the premise of the show, but it’s quite clumsily written, is entirely too obvious with its foreshadowing and forces the main traits of the heroines on the audience instead of letting them develop naturally.
It’s also pretty cheesy. It’s corny. It’s corny cheese, especially Twilight’s speech about each of the Elements. The villain is almost entirely ineffective, is shown to have powers she never uses to her advantage, and brings about her own defeat when all she had to do was keep away.
Still, it was good enough to generate enough interest to start up the brony phenomenon, and that’s all it really had to do. Mediocre mission accomplished!
The Crystal Empire
An episode that doesn’t get much love, but I think it was fine. The main negative was the lack of a complex, personable villain who could interact with the Mane Six. Not that King Sombra was an ineffective villain at all. He planned out a thorough series of obstacles that would have stymied Twilight entirely, had it not been for Spike. And c’mon, let the little guy have his day in the limelight! King Sombra also showed enough smarts to track down and disable Shining Armor, which I have previously argued is an easily overlooked hint of how intelligent he still is. His personality really let him down, and by extension, the rest of the episode.
On the plus side, the songs were catchy. The episode also provided some more world building, a new venue for stories to take place in, and an entirely new race of ponies, as well as being the start of a running plot thread for the rest of the season.
A sadly overlooked episode, if you ask me.
Princess Twilight Sparkle
While this episode didn’t introduce us to any new villains, it still was really entertaining.
A mystery, some history, Zebra’s refrains and twilicanes.
Discord in a French maid dress; a crocodile thrown in the mess;
Some plants that had a poison spray; Then Twilight gave the jewels away;
In return, she got a box, one with six mysterious locks
Tell us what’s inside it, please, and where the heck are all the keys?
(It took me quite a bit of time, so I hope you liked my nonsense rhyme.)
Where did that come from? At any rate, we got a lot of historical information from this episode, and an intriguing mystery as to the origin of the weird vines. Discord and Zecora were pulled back into the story, and the loss of the Elements really changed the status quo, setting off a new story arc for Season 4, based around the box and unlocking it. All of this was pretty well done, albeit with a few plotholes, and was very impressive in a visual sense.
The Return of Harmony
One problem: Discord lets himself get defeated for pretty much no reason except plot convenience. It’s pretty sad, but the rest of the episode is awesome. It truly stepped up the game in terms of a seriously threatening and menacing villain. The entire episode is pretty dark, featuring as it does the Mane Six members getting mind raped in various ways.
It’s also the first time that Princess Celestia ever looked grim, highlighting just how much of threat Discord represents. And he definitely delivers on that threat, at least until the end of the episode. He’s also very entertaining to watch, and is without a doubt the most charismatic villain. No wonder he has so many fans. Although I do wish they would stop calling him “the god of chaos”. He’s the spirit of disharmony.
With a great villain, and a decidedly darker tone, this episode is my pick for best Season Premiere.
The Season Finales
A Canterlot Wedding
While entertaining in its own way, there are simply too many problems with this episode. A sudden introduction of characters never even hinted at before; a villain with a plan that had more holes in it than its planner, and who let her captives do everything they could to defeat her (and succeed!) when she could easily have stopped them. On the other hand, the songs were nice, and there was a decent amount of action. It’s just that the flaws are so glaring, that they detract from the enjoyment, at least for me.
Most people seemed to love it, though, despite its problems, and hey, I can handle that. I just don’t think it does well enough to save itself from last place in my list.
Magical Mystery Cure
I enjoyed it, but I have to admit the pacing wouldn’t be to the liking of many fans. I personally think it was fine, and I have my own interpretation of what the writers were trying to do. I thought the musical aspect of it was actually rather well done, telling the story through songs, but I recognize that it’s a view not many others hold. It lacked a villain, which makes it a little bit unusual as a season finale, but it still had a problem that needed a resolution. The result of that resolution led to Twilight becoming an alicorn and a princess.
Basically, I’ve heard all the arguments for why MMC should be considered a bad episode and why making Twilight an alicorn and princess was a mistake. While I understand why fans feel the way they do about it, I disagree with several of the points. If you need more information about it, have a look at the supplementals.
First Place TIE
Twilight’s Kingdom / The Best Night Ever
First of all, I realize that I technically gave Twilight’s Kingdom a slightly lower ranking than I did The Best Night Ever in their respective reviews. So then, why are they tied? It’s because these two episodes are just so different in focus. The Best Night Ever is a slice of life episode that entirely lacks a villain or even a problem to be solved, while Twilight’s Kingdom is much more of an adventure / villain-hero showdown. I didn’t think it entirely fair to put one above the other when they are doing entirely different things. While Magical Mystery Cure was also a single episode with no villain, there was still a clear problem to be resolved, so I decided not to split the single and double episodes.
Twilight’s Kingdom had a number of things going for it: a decent villain, a spectacularly exciting climax and great dialogue. The main failing it has is Princess Celestia’s stupidity, which I expounded upon at length in the review. Despite that and some other negative aspects, it certainly was an entertaining episode for me.
The Best Night Ever is almost a perfect episode, and I really had to look hard to find any negatives. It too was superbly entertaining, with a great deal of humour sprinkled in.
Indeed. So, as different as they are, both of these episodes were very satisfying overall, and that’s why I put them at the top of my list.
5. Nightmare Moon (Pilot)
Threat Level: 9
I think she’s the worst villain. She has power, but never uses it fully. We also don’t get to see much of her personality, except that she’s pretty hammy and can be sarcastic at times.
4. King Sombra (The Crystal Empire)
Threat Level: 10
He technically did well as a villain, but without any strong personality to go with his schemes, he ends up lacking. You can get more information in the Supplemental.
3. Changeling Queen (Chrysalis)
Threat Level: 12
The Queen of the Changelings is a lot of fun to watch, and as she showed, once she’s powered up with enough love, she can even hand Celestia a beatdown. Despite this, her plans make no sense, and she starts gloating way too early, while not making any move to stop her “prisoners” from doing their best to beat her.
Threat Level: 13
Tirek shows both an ability to manipulate others, and to be a threat based purely on how much power he can gather. So he’s dangerous in two separate ways. This also gives us a bit of personality to work with. He came very close to victory, and made only one mistake… betraying Discord, and thereby causing him to side with Twilight and the others and providing the final key.
Threat Level: 14
Discord is certainly the most charismatic villain, and the most powerful, barring a fully powered up Tirek, of course. One thing along prevents Discord from being the perfect villain: his stupidity in allowing himself to be defeated. Despite this, he truly deserves the top spot on the villain list.
So that’s that, at least until Season 5 begins. As always, feel free to comment, and stay sunny side up.