Find the other parts of my S4 retrospective here.
Well, I’m waaaaaay behind schedule on these MLP S4 rewatch write-ups, but I’ll do my best to put out as many in the next couple days before Season 5’s premiere as I can. After Flight to the Finish, Season 4 settles into a groove, and the subsequent several episodes strike a good balance between the earnest and well-made stuff that made MLP popular in the first place and the engaging ambitious ideas that have propelled it forward since Season 2. These two episodes aren’t the best examples of that description, considering they’re reflective of some of the significant shortcomings of MLP trying to be more ambitious, but they still have a bit of what made MLP so great in the first place and a bit of what still makes it so great. Now let’s get down to some more pone!
A really good popcorn episode! I didn’t know what to make of the idea of the ponies becoming superheroes when I first heard about it but I was definitely excited to see where it would go, and pleased with where it actually did go. Definitely holds up just as well as I remember it. Maretropolis is gorgeous and brimming with gritty but camp atmosphere, making it easy to get into the groove of the episode. The Mane-iac is a great campy villain with a distinct look, distinct mannerisms in the way she uses her super-powered mane with wonderful visual flow, and a really fun over-the-top vocal performance by Ellen Kennedy. The Power Ponies’ superpowers range from simple but appropriate enhancements of the characters’ actual abilities (Twilight, Applejack, Rainbow Dash) to abilities that fit the quirks of the characters like a glove and lend themselves to really inventive and genuinely funny little moments sprinkled throughout the episode (Pinkie, Rarity) to abilities that are a reference to one odd personality trait to make for a decent gag at the end (Fluttershy). The one thing each ability has in common is that they’re all fun to see play out in all the neat little action scenes of the episode.
The actual underlying character arc of the episode goes to Spike. In a vacuum it’s a fine enough character episode, but when Spike is still by and large the useless butt of every joke (including several overt examples across the immediate subsequent episodes) it’s extremely hard to invest in his development. Spike just doesn’t have any consistency at all, so it’s impossible for him to be a good character. Besides that, though, this is a real fun episode with an awesome concept and awesome execution, and definitely a pleasure to watch again.
This is an episode that doesn’t hold up so well with rewatches. I mean, it’s a fine episode, but when I first saw it I loved it a whole lot more. The idea of vampire fruit bats, and the idea of Fluttershy becoming one, are cool concepts, and so is the base narrative conflict between Applejack and Fluttershy and their differences of approaching the issue, but the execution falls flat on so many levels. It makes sense for Dash and Rarity’s personalities quirks to cause them to have a stifle-jerk reaction (‘stifle’ is horse talk for knee… apparently) and side with Applejack’s stubborn short-term solution, and it made sense for Pinkie to passively go along with things as usual, but why Twilight? I have absolute no clue how in the hell Twilight, the voice of reason of the group, would immediately go for the short-term solution. I just can not believe Twilight’s actions, and that takes me out of it a bit. The biggest shortcoming of Bats! is the flimsy use of the “The Stare”, which really stretches the idea beyond any semblance of sense from Twilight’s spell reflecting the fruit bats’ instincts onto Fluttershy using The Stare to Fluttershy somehow inflicting The Stare on herself in vampire bat form even though it’s an ability that she normally has total control over. There isn’t any solid ground for The Stare to stand on in this episode, and putting aside the superficial “logic holes” of it all it’s just really graceless writing that’s difficult to engage with.
I think I’ve spent enough time being harsh on this episode, so let’s get to the good stuff! I loved the atmosphere of the episode, especially in the climax of the episode when they’re in the orchard at night. The barren trees spread across the shadowy fields was gorgeous and spooky, with tight flowing shot-framing to top it off. And let’s not forget about the brilliant and haunting Nightmare Before Christmas inspired eponymous song of the episode, which easily ranks among the very best compositions Ingram has ever put out. This is a bit of a strange and uneven episode of MLP, but it has a whole lot of bright spots that make it a real good watch.
And that was episodes 6 and 7. I was planning to talk about a few more episodes for this write-up, but I’ll try to do that over the next few episode reviews which will come over the next couple days (hopefully). Until then, enjoy these two episode reviews and continue to rev up your hype engines for Season 5!