Hey, remember that show that all these fanfics are based on? Apparently they're still making new episodes! Who knew?
Anyway, I went ahead and checked out the premier of the fourth season and, finding I had some things to say about it, decided to say them. Click down below the break for my thoughts.
P.S. Since it's been a while since the last one of these, a reminder: this isn't intended as a summary of the episode itself, nor is it in any way comprehensive. It's just a few of my thoughts after watching the new episode and having a day or two to digest it. Expect nothing more nor less.
-----I won't lie: coming into these episodes was the least excited I've been for more pony since I started watching. Magical Mystery Cure left a sour taste in my mouth, and that dampened my enthusiasm for (and optimism about) the show's future installments. Also, the expansion of canon and canon-ish storylines into places I either haven't followed (the comics) or didn't want to (Equestria Girls) has, I've found, made it harder for me to feel connected to the show. I've never considered myself any sort of hardcore, die-hard fan (said the man who's been blogging about the show's fanfiction for more than two years), but the fact that I haven't been following the show-derivatives has somehow made following the show itself feel that much less like something that matters to me. Heck, I haven't even been keeping up with spoilers and sneak-peeks--not out of a desire to view the episode "unspoiled," but out of apathy.
What I'm getting at is that I didn't even bother to get up for a livestream, instead eventually getting around to checking out a youtube rip late on Saturday afternoon. And as I sat down to watch, what I felt wasn't really excitement, the way it had been for even the episodes I'd been most trepidatious about before this season. Mostly, I was just resigned: resigned to the fact that I probably wasn't going to enjoy what I was about to see, and not even about to get mad if it lived down to my worst expectations.
Just a bundle of cheer, I was.
-----The first few minutes of the episode did absolutely nothing to break me from my tired-old-man-funk. The ponies are reduced to caricatures (especially Pinkie), such "humor" as there is mostly derives from said caricaturizations (especially Pinkie) or from overdone, drawn-out animation jokes (Twilight's freak-out right before Celestia came in was a dead ringer, to me, for the worst excesses of the fan-animation Double Rainboom), and nothing seems to happen but a bunch of standing around and talking (not a problem by itself, but when coupled with complaint #1...).
-----Once we got to Ponyville, though, things picked up quite a bit for me. Discord is orders of magnitude more interesting than I could have hoped he would be after his reformation, for starters. Hopefully they decide to keep this "I've decided that there are better ways to cause chaos than to be an implacable foe, such as by being 'helpful'" thing he seems to now have going.
-----Hey, and those history segments were amazing! Well, that's probably saying too much, but the Nightmare Moon battle definitely blew my expectations out of the water.
Okay, so my expectations were "will cause me to shed a single tear, a la that Indian from the old Keep America Beautiful commercial, as any shreds of commonality between this episode and the hints of worldbuilding in the first three seasons are cast away like extra leeches at the end of a fishing trip."
The point is, I liked them way more than I expected to. And even more than that, I, well, liked them. That was pleasant; liking the things you watch for fun is nice.
-----Side note: was it just me, or did Rarity sound like she was high as a kite all through the episode? The voice was giving me a definite Carrie-Fisher-in-The-Star-Wars-Holiday-Special vibe. Eh, it was probably just me.
-----Another side note: for one brief moment, shortly after they went into the Everfree Forest, I hoped we were going to get a repeat appearance by Steven Magnet. Instead, all we got was a rock-crocodile that somehow wasn't named a rockodile. Seriously, was the name trademarked or something? There's gotta be a way around it, if so. That pun's too obvious to pass up.
-----Yet another side note, this one from earlier on but I'm doing side notes now so why not: those royal guards must have gone to the BRIAN BLESSED school of character voicing. They may have flunked out of "volume," but at least they got passing marks in "dramatic pauses," "dramatic emphasis of unimportant words," "dramatic gasps," and "being a large ham (dramatically)."
-----I didn't really have a problem with the idea that Twilight would be sent away from the group because she was a princess, then would realize that being friends is more important than being a princess and come back to them. It's a good moral, after all. But... the way they did it didn't make any sense to me at all. What, exactly, were the other five ponies hoping to accomplish without Twilight around? If they've somehow decided that this isn't an Elements of Harmony issue (?), then what exactly are they planning to do sans their "indispensable" princess?
-----I was actually happy to see the Elements of Harmony go; they've been used enough that I feel they've lost their effectiveness as a "now things are serious" story device, and they were dangerously close to becoming a crutch for the show writers (if they weren't already). That said, this six-lock box isn't something I'm feeling to positive about; if nothing else, it tells me that we're going to get a lot more adventure/overarching storyline episodes, and on the whole my favorites have almost all been the slice-of-life/problem of the week ones.
-----On the whole, I was very, very pleasantly surprised by this premier. Now, it's true that I had low expectations and came into this episode basically waiting to be disappointed, but that doesn't change the fact that I really, really enjoyed watching this. That's pretty much what I want out of an episode of My Little Pony, and Princess Twilight Sparkle delivered on that count. I don't know where the season's going to go from here vis-a-vis my entertainment level, but this start at least has me feeling optimistic again.