My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Season 5–Too Much Friendship Isn’t Magic

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Posted December 3, 2015 by Chad Waller in Nerdy Bits

I’ve never made it a habit to review individual My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episodes or movies because I never get to them in a timely fashion. I’m honestly kind of a bad fan of the show, or at least, a fan that is perpetually late to the party. However, now that Season 5 is over and we’ve all had time to digest it (and in my case, I just finished “The Cutie Re-Mark Part 2”), I think we should have a quick discussion about Season 5 as a whole.

You should know that the only reason I think this is because I’m unhappy. I’m less inclined to rave about things I like because I’m an emotionally stunted human being.

See, there’s always this fear that long-running shows will turn sour because almost all of them do. Networks aren’t going to cancel a show that’s doing well regardless of a quality dip, and in the case of MLP:FiM, Season 3 ended with Twilight Sparkle becoming a princess, which was an excruciating bout of executive meddling. It certainly made the transition into Season 4 worrisome.

Thankfully, Season 4 was awesome! It’s actually my favorite of the bunch, and Princess Twilight was really just regular Twilight with a new set of wings. The comedy stayed strong, the characters stayed strong, and at the very end, we got a Dragonball Z fight between Twilight Sparkle and Tyrek. How cool was that?

So I went into Season 5 with open arms and not a fear in the world, and as of the opening episodes, my lack of fear was certainly founded. “The Cutie Map Parts 1 and 2” where great—can you say The Equestria version of Jonestown?—, “Bloom and Gloom” was wonderful, “Tanks of the Memories” was one of the funniest episodes the show managed to produce, and “Slice of Life” was a once-in-a-lifetime event as far as I’m concerned.

I still can’t believe that episode is a thing.

bond

Canonically, one of these characters is actually a paranormal secret agent.

However, come episode 101, Season 5 took a dive, and of the 17 remaining episodes, I only consider five of them good. Of those five, “Crusaders of the Lost Mark” is the only one that’s really exceptional. Everything else is just…well, mediocre. There are a few bad apples thrown around (“What about Discord” being a standout), but really, the show just kind of got dull.

I think the reason for this has to do with the subtitle of the show itself and that executive meddling I mentioned earlier. Friendship is magic as we know, and it’s always been a core theme, but having Twilight really embrace her inner princess ruined what little subtlety the show had about the topic. Friendship went from being the lesson learned to the outright goal, and it just got tiresome.

Of the 26 episodes, I’d say at least eight of them sought friendship as the main goal. That’s almost a third of the season. It doesn’t help that some of those episodes covered the same ground entirely: “Make new Friends but keep Discord” sees Discord reacting to feeling abandoned by Fluttershy; “Amending Fences” sees Twilight return to Canterlot to revisit some old friends that she outright abandoned; “The Mane Attraction” sees Applejack reacquaint herself with an old friend long forgotten; and “The Cutie Re-Mark Part 2” sees Starlight Glimmer break down over losing a friend when she was young.

That’s a lot of abandoned/forgotten friendships for one season.

To make matters worse, each episode is resolved in pretty much the same way. Discord realizes his folly and that he’s still loved, Twilight convinces her old friends to forgive her, Applejack rekindles her friendship with Rara, and Starlight Glimmer ends the season with seven friends instead of zero.

And never once is it brought up that friendships sometimes just end on their own, that sometimes people drift apart through time and that that’s okay.

MLP:FiM has waded into dark places before—hell, “Tanks for The Memories” is literally about the five stages of grief—and such a lesson would be nothing short of obvious for a season whose main theme is friendship. We see them formed, we see them fixed, we see them rekindled, yet we never see them end.

It’s a problem.

However, it’s a problem I’d be willing to put up with in normal circumstances. This is a cartoon filled with pastel-colored horses made for children; I don’t go in expecting high-level cinema or literature. But Season 5 wasn’t the normal because Season 5 centered on Twilight Sparkle being the Princess of Friendship. It changed her, and not in a way I liked.

It’s understandable that something of this magnitude would change a character, and the writers certainly worked with Twilight’s neurosis and general dorkiness in a way that was believable; however, the end result was a character I found kind of insufferable. As the Princess of Friendship, Twilight became self-important and even more afraid of failure than ever. Again, it’s a logical progression, but again, it was also not exactly fun to put up with.

I look at the episode, “Amending Fences” and see Twilight go to great lengths to restore her friendship with Moon Dancer. It’s a friendship she herself destroyed, and Moon Dancer isn’t quick to forgive her. That makes sense.

22 minutes later and everyone is friends again.

I look back at my best friend from elementary school and shrug. We were the best of chums from kindergarten through sixth grade, and as soon as we moved into a bigger school in seventh, our friendship just dissolved. It was kind of awkward at the time, but it was also natural. I look at the friendships I made in high school and shrug because those too disappeared once I graduated. Hell, even most of my friends from college are now nothing more than casual acquaintances I see on Facebook.

Because when you grow up (Twilight and Moondancer), move (Starlight Glimmer and Sunburst), change career paths (Applejack and Rara), or just otherwise live like a normal person (Discord and Fluttershy), people will drift in and out of your life. That’s what happens.

I could give my best friend from sixth grade a call and ask him how he’s doing, but he’d be mostly confused and I’d be mostly awkward because I really don’t care. I haven’t thought about him in years. Even as I type about him, I’m still not really thinking about him. He was a person I knew.

Moon Dancer was that for Twilight.

The worst part was, the show actually takes the opposite view of this stance: that friendships shouldn’t end or that their ends can cause catastrophe. Starlight Glimmer went from the most interesting villains the show ever had to boring in under a minute’s worth of exposition. The reason she’s so mad and hurt is because Sunburst got his cutie mark first and went to a big magic school in Canterlot, leaving her behind.

That’s it.

She started a cult, her own little Jonestown, because her childhood friendship broke up. It’s a complete shame too, because the concept of the cutie mark is really strange and kind of disturbing when deconstructed; “Appleoasa’s Most Wanted” even addresses this. There were so many places Starlight Glimmer’s backstory could have gone (hello commentary about socialism!), but instead it was nonsensical, boring, and safe. She’s then reformed in under two minutes, and we get our happy ending.

jonestown

This was friggen’ creepy until we got some backstory.

Maybe I’m just being cynical, or maybe I’m asking too much from a children’s cartoon, but I know damn well that the writers can and have done better than that.

Now, with all this out in the open, I will confess that I didn’t hate Season 5. It wasn’t bad, and every episode had something that made it worth watching, even the really bad ones like “Brotherhooves Social” (that last conversation between Applebloom and Big Mac was super adorable and great). I just wish it hadn’t laid the friendship on so thick, or barring that, it had at least ramped up the comedy to go alongside its heavy-handed theming. Half of the episodes I found mediocre could have been saved by a few more jokes.

Because it’s not like Seasons 1 through 4 were always pillars of quality writing, but even their more obvious episodes were always really funny, and that’s why I’m on board. Make me laugh and I’ll forgive a lot of sins.

With Season 5 done and a big hiatus ahead of us, I really don’t know what to think about the future of this show. We’ve had a lot of episodes now, and while I’m not sick of Equestria or any of its characters, I am starting to wonder if the MLP:FiM should wind down during its next season. Ending on a high note is infinitely better than going the route of Spongebob Squarepants.

It’s why I’m only kind of sad that Gravity Falls is ending after its second season. You’re legacy can’t be questioned when you have zero bad episodes. MLP:FiM, you’ve had some bad ones, but you’re still far above the average. I’ll not be upset if you quit while your ahead.


About the Author

Chad Waller

Chad Waller is the cofounder of Dual Wield Software, a two-man video game company that just published The Land of Glass on Steam. You should check it out! You can follow him on Twitter @DualWieldSoft and find his company page on Facebook with a quick search.