Season 4 is an interesting one. The first quarter seems rather divisive while, in the second quarter, episodes are fairly easy to rate (with one exception). The season changes the status quo of the series. It is the first in which the Elements of Harmony are no longer used, the first to feature Alicorn Twilight, and the first to have an active story arc (rather than the passive "Gala" arc of Season 1 or the book which only connects the first and last episode of Season 3). I have rated each episode based on my own opinions.
- Stories with an "A" Rating are practically perfect in every way. I am likely to watch these episodes repeatedly (or at least until Season 5 rolls around).
- Stories with a "B+" Rating are upper average, meeting the requirements necessary to be a good episode but lacking in a few areas which would make them A worthy.
- Stories with a "B-" Rating are lower average. These episodes have their fair share of problems. They're not bad in any manner but just leave much to be desired.
- Stories with a "C" Rating are ...interesting. They're either "meh" episodes or confusing episodes.
- Stories with a "D" Rating are what I consider bad. I wouldn't watch them again except when marathoning the entire season.
I see each season as being a separate entity as far as ratings are concerned. An A rated episode from each season may not necessarily be of the same quality. The rating for each episode is based on its standing compared to other episodes of the same season with the exception of C and D.
Princess Twilight Sparkle
Princess Twilight Sparkle was a huge improvement from the previous season opener, The Crystal Empire. The Season 4 opener did a much better job of just that, opening the season. The episode introduced the setting nicely. It also re-introduced the Mane Six, the Princesses, Discord, and numerous other supporting characters (except Scootaloo). This episode also addressed many of the issues some had with Twilight's new status and included a significant amount of worldbuilding. The pacing was better than in most other two-part episodes, the animation was spectacular, and the plot was engaging.
Rarity Takes Manehattan
Rarity Takes Manehattan was a beautiful episode. Following a series of community-dividing episodes, Rarity Takes Manehattan was the first episode to be generally loved. The brilliance of this episode can be partially contributed to Tabitha St. Germain and Kasumi Evans who did a fantastic job voicing Rarity. The first Rarity episode since Season 2, the episode does a wonderful job reestablishing the generous pony's character. The episode leaves a very strong message not commonly taught and shows off the creativity of the staff.
Pinkie Apple Pie
Pinkie Apple Pie is a return to the basics of Season 1. It is a self-contained episode with a simple plot and a simple moral. With wonderful comedy, wonderful characterization, a wonderful moral and an unbelievably catchy song, this episode proves that a story does not need to be complicated to be good.
Pinkie Pride is exactly the opposite of the previous episode named after the character this season. This episode proves that a story fit to burst can be just as good as a slowly paced story. Pinkie Pride marks the return of Amy Keating Rogers to the writing staff and she does brilliantly, returning a character thought to be heavily flanderized back to her roots. As a musical, the pacing is much better than in Magical Mystery Cure. The comedy, randomness, and heart warmingness is all combined to make one of the best episodes of the entire series with Weird Al Yankovic as a delightful bonus.
Flight to the Finish
This episode was brilliant. It featured the first song of the season, a brilliant moral, the CMC in a not-so-annoying light, and a nice look at Equestrian society. However, the pacing fails miserably and the song is completely pointless only seeming to exist in order to replace the Cutie Mark Crusader Song as the theme of the CMC while wasting time.
Power Ponies is the last of the episodes to delve into the fantasy genre. A Spike episode, Power Ponies manages to keep Spike likable without finding the need to compare him to lesser characters. Spike isn't made into an idiot either. This is one of the better Spike episodes. As a DC/Marvel-esque story, Power Ponies does fairly well. It includes a creative villain and interesting powers for the superheroes which match their abilities in real life. It's a likable episode with its main fault being the pacing.
This episode could have easily become one of my favorite episodes of the entire series. The comedy was brilliant. The music was brilliant. The story was brilliant. The characterization of Fluttershy and Rarity were brilliant. The references were brilliant. It seemed like Amy Keating Rogers would be able to followup Pinkie Pride with another success. However, the reason for this episode's failure is the same reason for the other episode's success and that is Pinkie Pie. She is horrible this episode and the fact that the character says something which makes me hate her 3 times is just inexcusable.
Castle Mane-ia is the first story written by Josh Haber and it is interesting. While it would make a better Scooby Doo episode (which is in fact the whole idea) than a MLP episode, I have to give credit for what it is. As a comedic episode, it is hilarious and even does a good job of further introducing the main cast of the season as well as the journal used by the characters as a replacement for the friendship letters. However, the episode is the first clear example of Pinkie Pie's poor characterization this season and the false cliffhanger was very misleading.
This episode doesn't fit in with the average episodes just because of how confusing it is. For example, if everything chronicled in the Daring Do books actually happened, why isn't there news coverage? Why isn't Princess Celestia doing anything? Who was keeping Ahuizotl in check before A.K. Yearling was born? This episode has some wonderful meta-humor and a really good emotional scene. Daring Do is a likable character and the action sequence is pretty good. It's the confusion which really ties this episode down.
Bats! seems like an experiment. It is the first attempt to make an episode focused on the relationship between Applejack and Fluttershy. There are too many plot holes and the references were excessive. The contrivences were poorly hidden. However, this episode is saved by its catchy song and the wonderfully done climax.
This episode is alright. It features more character development for the CMC, much like in the group's previous episode. The plot is simple and Twilight's status is actually the focus of the episode for once. Twilight's eagerness to teach younger ponies certainly adds depth to her character and she continues to show the fairness and adorkability which made her such an appealing character from the beginning. However, the plot doesn't really go anywhere new and the fact that the fillies rarely see Twilight seems ridiculous when 1) She lives in a public library 2) She spends much of her time with her friends and 3) She seems to have taken up a leading role in Ponyville
Three's A Crowd
This is an episode I should love. Twilight's princesshood is mentioned again, Cadance and Discord reappear, there's an action scene, there are a few clever jokes and there's a John de Lancie song. However, it takes about half the episode to get past the premise and the flow of the episode suffers as a result with the song not helping matters. I don't really understand the message and it was just overall underwhelming. Overall, it is just a "meh" episode.
This episode was a thing. It seemed much more like a fanfic than an actual episode in that it was taking the characters and setting of My Little Pony and applying them to a situation out of place in the actual show. The problem with this is that this is the actual show! Because of this, I don't know how to feel about it. Neither of Josh Haber's episodes seem to follow the general expectations of an MLP episode but whereas there wasn't much problem with this in Castle Mane-ia, in this episode, it just causes confusion. Simple Ways is funny and interesting, but just trying to understand it gives me a headache.
It Ain't Easy Being Breezies
This episode had so many things wrong with it. There were too many plot holes and logical flaws. If very few ponies know about the Breezies, how exactly do they go across Equestria every year. Additionally, the Breezies don't make any sense. They're pretty pathetic in every way. Twilight's spell came right out of nowhere. That being said, this episode does admittedly have a good moral which doesn't see much use and Seabreeze was a highlight of the episode. While there wasn't much humor in this episode, the few bits of comedy that existed generally hit their mark.
So many people are going to hate me for this but Rainbow Falls is not a good episode. The "rainbow key" effect was forced, the plot was forced, the appearance of Fluttershy and Snowflake (I refuse to call him Bulk Biceps) were forced; everything about this episode was forced. The episode is boring and not even Twilight's good scenes or Derpy could save this episode.