Season 4 has come and gone, leaving us with this two-parter dubbed “Twilight’s Kingdom.” Instead of a reaction ramble, I went through and picked out six things in particular I wanted to talk about. Check in below to see just what I thought of this season’s finale.
1) “You’ll Play Your Part” Song
As some of you may know, I recently graduated from college, so in many ways this song was well timed for me. The reason for that, of course, is I can really empathize with the emotions that Twilight is going through during this song. Sure, I got a cap and gown, not wings and a crown, but the uncertainty about the future, of being expected to do great things but not exactly seeing how, of wanting to contribute and have a purpose in some manner, is something that I think my fellow graduates and I are experiencing. In fact, uncertainty about the future and the need for a purpose are, in many ways, a universal drive for mankind (see humanistic psychology).
Now I’ve seen some people complain about this song, and Twilight’s larger uncertainties, as being a repeat of her doubts about her abilities. Those people, however, I don’t think watched the same scenes as I did because I didn’t see anything that suggests that Twilight is doubting her own abilities. Heck, when the other three alicorns gave her their alicorns magic, she was confident that her and her friends would be able to face the challenge. This was not a crisis of confidence on Twilight’s part; it was a crisis of uncertainty on where she is going. To bring back to my own case, I’m confident in my skills; I know I’m a pretty damn good political scientist. But even with that confidence, there exists an uncertainty about my future in grad school, about what’s to come, where I’m going to end up, and it’s an uncertainty that will only go away once I get there, make my choices, and grow. It is, indeed, a matter of time and patience, not of skills and confidence.
On a more series-oriented analysis, I’m always glad to see Celestia, and the other princesses, taking on the roles of mentor for Twilight. Luna’s verse in particular, I think, was good, especially as out of all three of them she would probably have the most empathy for feeling left out and in the background. I pretty see this as S4’s “Celestia’s Ballad”, which is one of my favorite songs of the series.
2) The Box Arc
I’ll admit not every episode of the box arc was all that great, but thematically I liked it and it’s conclusion. The reason for that is because, in a sense, the box arc was supposed to be representing a possible shift in the show that started with Equestria Girls. As I mentioned in my review of the movie, Twilight Sparkle is recognizing that her role as princess is shifting from learning about friendship to teaching it. Of course a good teacher is still a good student and is always learning, but what I got out of the box arc is that like Twilight in Equestria Girls, the Mane 6 is now shifting from students of friendship to mentors. Each of the box arc episodes had the Mane 6 face something that challenged their initial views of their related Elements and, through overcoming the difficult quandary presented, not only learned something themselves but inspired another. Rarity and Coco, Rainbow and the Wonderbolts, Fluttershy and the Breezies, Applejack and Silver Shill, and Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich (granted she taught him the value in the past, but whatever, still counts).
This, of course, brings to question what Twilight’s role as the princess of friendship will be. The title, of course, suggests a kingdom, and a lot of people are wondering what the jurisdiction of Twilight will be, such as does she now “rule” Ponyville. But I think that maybe people are looking at the wrong idea of princess-hood here when they’re talking about it. I mean it’s understandable to think of a princess in the terms of ruling and administration and what not, but it may be that Twilight’s role as a princess may be invoking another aspect of princesshood; the princess as an exemplar.
An exemplar is “a person or thing serving as a typical example or excellent model.” Applying it to the role of a princess, however, I think is best expressed by this speech by Rider from the anime series Fate/Zero (just replace princess with king of course):
A king must be greedier, laugh louder, and be more furious than everyone else. He must exemplify the extreme of all things, including good and evil. That is exactly why his subjects envy and adore him. And why the flame of wanting to be like the king can burn in the hearts of every civilian.
In other words, the king is an example for the people to admire and follow, inspiring in them to do things beyond what they thought they could do in order to become like the king. Bringing it back into what I said about Twilight et. al shifting from learning to teaching about friendship, what I would expect Twilight’s role as “princess of friendship” is to serve as an exemplar of friendship alongside all her friends. As represented, of course, that all her friends got a seat at her court in a good old fashioned “Knights of the Round Table” deal. There might be some administrative ruling duties too, and we can’t see that till Season 5, but I expect the focus to be on Twilight and the others mentoring and helping others learn about friendship.
3) Discord’s Redemption Arc
I mentioned in my ramble on “Three’s a Crowd” that I really didn’t buy Discord’s redemption up to that point and in fact thought he might have been getting worse. The first part of this two-parter, of course, seemed to confirmed that as Discord proceeded to join with Tirek in hopes of getting back his freedom to be chaotic. The rest of the two-parter, however, slowly worked to fix that, showing a gradual uneasiness on Discord’s part regarding Tirek before eventually being betrayed by Tirek and returning to the side of Equestria.
Now, like I said, Discord going turncoat wasn’t exactly something that surprised me, and the reasons are understandable from his perspective. After all, he’s the master of chaos; when he won back in Return of Harmony he could manipulate the entire world anyway he wanted. And now here he is, friends with ponies, restricted under the expectation that if he did anything he’d get his butt beaten down. But here’s Tirek, a being powerful enough to get his own legend, offering just enough force to help bend the tide in Discord’s direction and give him some freedom.
When I say that Discord was showing some uncomfortableness with the whole thing, I’m talking about subtle stuff. A raise of the eyebrows when Shining asks why?, a turn of the head as the Mane 6 – Twilight are stripped of their magic, and that the most he ever did when told to “have fun” is mess with some windows. The question is, then, why, if he was uncomfortable, did he keep it up? Well, the mind is amazing at it’s ability to rationalize away discomfort, but more importantly, Discord seem to get real chummy with Tirek really quickly. Heck, Tirek keeps him on his side by giving a “gift” to represent “gratitude and loyalty”; effectively, Tirek bought Discord off by offering friendship. Since Discord had to betray his friends to get to this point, it wouldn’t be hard to believe that Discord basically rationalized that he was getting freedom and friendship by joining Tirek. And since that rationalization was the key to not having to face up to the consequences of his betrayal, it shouldn’t be that surprising he was hit so hard by Tirek betraying him.
Also, Discord’s magic when absorbed looks really cool.
Tirek was a pretty cool villain. He was more proactive than Sombra, which is a plus, and he had a pretty straight forward, no-nonsense kind of attitude to him that made him pretty effective. I’ll admit that other than being a cool, action kind of villain that was good for a big battle scene, he wasn’t that interesting. No real motivations behind him, a common problem for villains who seem more bent on destruction than anything else. I mean, he was going to steal the Equestria magic and then…what? I mean, Discord in “Return of Harmony” had the motivation of sadistic pleasure, Nightmare Moon had ruling and forcing ponies to love her, Chrysalis had feeding. So in a odd way, despite being more proactive and actually talking and having a personality, I don’t actually see Tirek as being that much better than Sombra as a villain; he’s tough, gets some cool action scenes, but has little motivation.
5) The action scene
If I hear one more person make a “DBZ” comment… Look, it’s great to see television aimed at girls not being afraid to do more big-action scenes, but let’s not act like it’s completely new territory. Prior Laust show “Powerpuff Girls” did it, in anime magical girls series have long had this sort of thing. Even the show itself has had action moments, usually in the two-parters. Sure, kicking a manticore isn’t exactly the same level as sending a monster through a mountain, but since the beginning the show has tried to incorporate a wide variety of episodes and action to try and hit home the point that television for girl’s can be just as varied as the interests of girls themselves.
6) The Rainbow Power Designs
Actually, I don’t think Twilight’s design is all that bad, and AJ’s could be okay with some color changes Her hair reminds me of Flim and Flam’s…which might the point…but then that reminds me of bacon. I think maybe it’s just that the hair is so dang long that makes some of their designs a little off to me. Maybe if they were scaled back a bit and there wasn’t as much contrast color-wise that makes everything a bit garish…
But over all, they aren’t bad enough that I can’t stand them; just bad enough I can say I can tolerate them in what is hopefully uncommon appearances (about whenever the Elements of Harmony would be used).
Still better than Rarity’s designs from Rainbow Falls though:
Overall, I liked the finale. In terms of Twilight’s arc, Discord’s arc, and the box arc, I thought it was a good conclusion, even if some of the episodes leading up to these arcs were iffier. I really hope that the show takes advantage of the implication that the girls are shifting from learning about friendship to teaching it, serving as examples of just what friendship is capable of doing. I also hope Discord’s reformation is actually sincere and that he actually makes some progress in learning to be a friend. As long as those are kept up, then I think that I’m going to be pretty hopeful for the next season and the series as a whole.