As the final confrontation heats up, I can hear the bevy of questions pounding through your mind. “How will Equestria survive this inevitable race war?” “What of this confrontation with the Princess?” “Is Iron Will really just in it for the cow tail?” “How long is he going to keep up this serious facade. We all know it’s just going to wind up bizarre and confusing.”
My mind has been racing the past few weeks. I was not simply impressed by the season finale, but I don’t think I’ve been as purely blown away by an episode since a far greener GX first watched the first episode of the series. It brilliantly wrapped up several open arcs, some of which extend back to Season 3 (the point in which many criticize that the believed end of those paths were unfulfilling). Season 4 was leaving me with a bit of a crisis of faith. My overall assessment was that it was very hit or miss to the extremes. “Rarity Takes Manehattan” and “Filli Vanilli” hit all the right lighthearted notes while putting Rarity and Fluttershy through solid character paces. “Rainbow Falls” and “Trade Ya!” rediscover the tone and style of Season 2. The return of Flim and Flam, the frequent and bombastic return of Discord, and Weird Al basically out-Pinkie-ing Pinkie, I can think of few moments more memorable.
I can easily and comfortably say that this season produced some of my favorite episodes of the series, but in the same breath, it also had the most notable disappointments. I know I’m in the minority over “Daring Don’t,” but I still feel that Rainbow’s character felt better grounded when her obsessive hobby was something mundane and not in itself magical and adventurous since every single other part of her mythos is over the top. The writers are desperately, desperately trying to make Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo valued characters, but for as much screen time as the trio gets, they’re so incredibly bland; they each have a few individual qualities, but it’s not a good sign when Scootaloo comes across as the one with the most depth. “Breezies” was a pacing nightmare, and “Simple Ways” was a nightmare on oh-so-many levels (I’d almost give it a so-bad-it’s-good pass, but St. Germain’s Mid-Atlantic Southern drawl should be banned under the Geneva Convention).
But among all that, I come away overwhelmingly positive because it delivered on the aspect that pushes the series from good to memorably amazing: the ability to surprise. I love Spike. I think he has one of the most interesting perspectives of any of the main characters. In many ways, he delivers on what the little sisters promise: he is the younger tagalong with childlike impulsiveness, an active imagination, and a continuous struggle with insecurity, identity, and his ultimate place and purpose in society. Not once, but twice in this season, I was completely prepared to write off an episode due to the lead-up portraying it as more novelty than plot (That would be “Power Ponies” and “Equestria Games” by the way). But rather than just resting on the concept, the premise actually became a fairly brilliant and fitting way to highlight the personal demons Spike grapples with. The idea of “bat ponies” when it was first mentioned brought out the same mental imagery that the rest of the internet imagined; however, the difference on my end is that I don’t like the now-generic anime design trope of “I really like Morrigan from Darkstalkers.” Despite this, the end result was a fun romp that pitted Applejack against Fluttershy, and even had a song about racism!
I’ve been put in a weird place after the season finale. As I stated way too many times, I thought Equestria Girls was a huge disappointment and bafflingly unrepresentative of what the show’s writing and design staff are capable of. The battle I expected to face when Rainbow Rocks releases was my profound distaste for the first versus my drive to be a completionist. I still have practically no faith in Rainbow Rocks considering that the cliché premise of the first seems, on the surface, to be followed by yet another cliché premise. But now, given the journey they set me on in the main series, given the brilliance and charm and emotion of the season finale, I feel… not a debt to be paid, but a desire to support even in the dark times and a small voice inside me, cutting through the cynicism and disappointment, offering only four golden words: “Benefit of the doubt.”