Well, as usual, I'll leave reviewing the episodes to the numberless masses of youtube folk who enjoy doing that. I will, however, share some personal opinions on quality, coherence, impact on headcanon, and the like. And I'll probably include some screenshots of Carrot Top. Look, if you don't want Carrot Top screenshots, I don't know what you're doing here; clearly, you hate all things good and right in the world, and should probably go back to framing puppies for arson, or whatever it was you were doing before you came here. Anyway, thoughts on The Cutie Re-Mark, below!
-Personally, I had no strong opinions about whether Glimmer's return was a good or bad thing, coming in, but I think her introduction was handled in a perfectly acceptable way. Give her a magic scroll that can conveniently excuse any power imbalances (Well, that and the fact that the past seasons have pretty clearly established that Twi doesn't think on her hooves well when it comes to fighting/tricking opponents), kick off the plot, boom, we're in business. The way time travel works doesn't seem to make sense, but a) time travel almost never does, and b) again, we can just say "the scroll did it" for a lot of the problems it brings up. As far as Twilight expositing the exact way in which Glimmer will attack her (or rather, Rainbow) at the start... in a written work, I'd call that lazy, but in its actual medium, I'd call it an acceptable shortcut. All in all, not a bad start.
-Once we get to the first alternate past, there's... hey look, it's Carrot Top!
To be fair, I'd also be more than a little concerned if, in the middle of a continent-spanning war against a foe straight out of myth and legend, a dragon showed up outside my house.
-I have to say, I liked the idea of the Sombra alt-history more than the presentation. The battling looked far too silly for me, making the whole situation seem low-stakes when both the descriptions and the other visual cues (Dash has a prosthetic wing, an eye scar, and only half an ear left, for goodness' sake!) suggested that this wasn't supposed to be at all goofy. I mean, the slap-fighting that the armies are doing is about on par, seriousness-wise, with the pie-chucking in Over a Barrel. Magic blasts and rock-dropping feel a lot less goofy, and I think the show would've been better served by sticking to those kinds of battle events; stuff where nopony needs to be hurt on-screen (which presumably wouldn't make it past the sensors), but where, at least nominally, it feels like somepony could be.
-The changelings were up next, and in a lot of ways, they were the weakest history we got. Sombra was intriguing in theory, and NMM was an incompetent scenery-chewer... but an in character incompetent scenery chewer (I mean, that was her whole shtick in the pilot). The changeling scene, though, feels very forgettable to me, because Twilight and Spike don't do anything. With Sombra's alt-history, they explore, discover what's going on, and learn about their predicament through their own initiative. With NMM, they're again active participants (at least, nominally; "tricking Nightmare Moon" seems to rank somewhere below "tie shoelaces" on the universal difficulty scale, but my point is that they do something). With the changelings, though, everything they do is dictated by Zecorah; they don't make any decisions of their own the entire time they're there, and all the exposition is spoon-fed to them. As an alt-universe, it's about as inherently interesting as Tirek, Discord, or Flim & Flam's scenes... but unlike them, it's not two seconds long.
-On the other hand, it's got Carrot Top with green anti-changeling mud/cameo!
Not just anypony can combine such stunning amounts of "badass" and "adorable" into a single look.
This is the new cutest pony, supplanting "Carrot Top with a green headband." The top five are rounded out by "Carrot Top with a saddle," "Carrot Top in a dress," and "Carrot Top sans accouterments."
-I want to point out that Flim & Flam's scene came before "total wasteland," but after every "major" villain from the show to date. And in the "total wasteland" scene, Twilight says "...every world I come back to is worse than the last." Flim & Flam apologists take note: the brothers are canonically a greater threat to Equestria than any other foe we've seen the girl's face!
-Speaking of the brothers, it was around their alt-history that I realized something that made me re-evaluate the episode. See, it had bugged me up to that point that this was another "Twilight
and the rest of the main six is the only important pony in Equestria" episode, which always makes the world feel small to me (You can say "it's her destiny," but that just kicks the problem up another level; why does no other pony in Equestria have the agency to do anything about X, Y, or Z?). But then I remembered what Twilight said near the start: "The map is connected to the Tree of Harmony! It must sense that something isn't right! That's why it's still here!" If the Tree can exert enough influence on the timeline to keep the map present, why couldn't it exert enough influence to pick (or at least, impact) what of the many possible timelines Twilight sees? And, since it "wants" the past to be left un-tampered with, it's got a vested interest in showing her whatever alt-universes would convince her and Glimmer not to change history at all.
Whether you think that the Tree of Harmony doing that has more disturbing implications than Twilight simply being that important is up to you, but I found it really helped my enjoyment of the episode when I viewed all those timelines as having been specifically selected for the purpose of getting us to a status-quo "
happily harmonically ever after."
-Still hate the CGI Timber Wolves; they break my immersion just as much as the live-action stuff we've seen in the past, and I think they're less visually interesting than the original flash-animated ones in their own right, to boot.
-One of my favorite bits was Glimmer convincing the young ponies that they should all get along. Not only was it funny, but Twilight managed to get out what I think is an important lesson (albeit not very cogently--like I said above, she doesn't do so well when she's put on the spot, poor girl): that there's a difference between thinking and feeling the same things, and just getting along. Sometimes, I've felt like the show has smushed that line, so having her recognize there's a difference was nice.
Of course, that still left her in the awkward position of endorsing bullying for the greater good, but like I said: it was funny!
-I really disliked how Glimmer's redemption was handled. I thought having her whole backstory be "I didn't stay in touch with my friend when he moved, so I became EVIL" was cliche, but not intolerably so for a show like MLP. At first I thought maybe they'd change the past by telling Old!Starlight and Sunburst to remember to write or something, thus making her grow up happy and creating an even better future than canon (after thinking about the implications of that for more than a few seconds, it's probably just as well the show writers didn't go that route). After Glimmer decided to give
peace friendship a chance, I thought the episode would end with her having/getting to track down Sunburst and reconnect, but no; he's never mentioned again, and is off jaunting along with the main six instead. Leaving Sunburst as a giant loose end doesn't make any sense to me, especially since they took the time to have her do stuff like reconnect with the (thematically much less important) denizens of her Equality Town instead.
-As for what this means for the future? I don't know. If Glimmer ends up like Discord, reappearing for a few episodes next season, I think that'd be great; it gives Twilight a chance to start sliding into a mentor role, helping establish her as more of a Princess (I mean, it's been two seasons; I think we're at the point where the wings and castle can't be mostly aesthetic anymore). If we're going into a "main seven" situation, though... well, this was a really weird way to do it. Spending an entire two-parter on just how important the semi-mystical connection between six specific characters is doesn't make for a very smooth transition into "...and here's their new friend, who is of equal (heh) importance." I guess we'll have to wait until next season to see what happens, but I'm really hoping the show doesn't go that direction.
-All in all, I probably enjoyed this as much as any of the two-parters to date, though I admit that the possibility of Glimmer becoming a main character leaves me rather more concerned about the future direction of the show than I'd like. All in all, season five hasn't been perfect, but I can safely say I've enjoyed it oodles more than seasons three and four; it's had plenty of episodes I enjoyed, and a few that are probably on my shortlist of personal favorites. We'll see what the future brings, but if nothing else, I'm ready to assume the best of what comes.
This will be the last screenshot I take of Carrot Top for the foreseeable future, and it's one where she and Derpy are singing together. Gotta say, I'm okay with this.