What better time to review My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Season 5 than mid-way through Season 6? In this massive bonus content episode, Neil, Kara, and I explore how five years of pony shenanigans has shaped our opinions on the show as well as what we expect from the series going forward. We also discuss the My Little Pony – Equestria Girls: Friendship Games film. CLICK HERE or on the image above to download our review.
Review in a Nutshell: Despite a few weaker episodes here and there, Season 5 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic delivers some powerful and emotionally resonant stories that should satisfy any pony fan.
I’m always glad to see your pony episodes come up. I’ve been watching FiM since sometime after season one ended, and I’ve always thought you’ve really hit upon what makes the show something special. And speaking as someone who fell in love with the fandom at its high point before gradually becoming disillusioned with it, I also still see your pony episodes as the one fan production of consistent quality that I can still look forward to. I think we had different reactions to season 5, though, and I felt like talking about it.
What bothers me about season 5 is that it’s fairly clear to me that the writers have gradually shifted their focus more towards the fans of the show than the more general “little girl” audience. And it’s not that there aren’t some good things that come with that. Like you, I like that the lessons being given in each episode are growing up and becoming more nuanced as the viewers themselves grow up with the show. The fact that the show caters its lessons to adults is something I’ve liked since the first season, because I feel like there aren’t nearly enough TV shows FOR adults that provide those same types of positive lessons. And yes, as a fan, I loved that they decided to do an entire episode stuffed full of memes, even though I also kind of hated myself for it. Whatever, they all but gave their blessing for Lyra X Bon-Bon, I’ll take it.
But I think a problem that remained consistent throughout the season is that they’re just [i]trying too hard.[/i] Look at the plot points throughout the season. The ponies gotta be envoys of friendship on a mission from God to save entire other towns. Even though Twilight is basically a god herself, she’s gotta have increasingly more powerful opponents to contend with. Twilight’s mistakes from the past (which were really just throwaway plot setup in the first episode) gotta come back and haunt Twilight because they wrecked someone else’s life. Luna’s gotta be holding onto HER life-wrecking mistakes and basically inflicting self-harm in a very abstract way. The royal ponies gotta have a baby. Every other episode’s gotta end with everyone crying.
I’m not even against plot developments like this on an individual basis. I’d be okay if the show did one every once in a while. But since they filled an entire season with them, it feels like the show is staffed with grimdark fanfic writers. And that’s the other thing: Fans already HAD stories like these available to them in fanfics. That’s what fanfics are [i]for[/i]. I felt like one of the strengths of older seasons was that all the dark stuff was only ever hinted at, that it provided all this half-finished lore that encouraged fans to get creative and write stories about everything that might be happening behind the scenes. Meanwhile, the show itself never gets too serious and never relies too much on continuity, so it can keep a steady pace and keep providing new content for the fans to expand in their own time.
I think I remember Jayson Thiessen stating (I think in a Reddit Q&A) that one of his goals was specifically to leave things open-ended for the fans like this. I remember him saying that he liked seeing the fans come up with things like DJ Pon-3, so he was never going to give the background ponies official characterization in the show, because he wanted the fans to be able to come up with their own ideas for those characters. I liked that attitude, and I wanted the show to hold to it. It was one of the things that made the show meaningful to me; among other positive messages in the show, the show’s creators were desigining the show in a way that they could encourage fans to be as artistic and creative as possible.
You can joke about how many TV shows go out of their way to maintain the status quo, to make sure a plot development never changes anything permanently. But there’s a strength to that. It maintains the feeling that the show can last forever, even after the last episode airs. That’s not just a way to ensure that new episodes can always be made; it means fans can keep creating new stories on their own. That’s why, from the first few seasons, it was clear to me that the Cutie Mark Crusaders were never going to get their cutie marks until [i]maybe[/i] the last episode, and Diamond Tiara was never going to redeem herself, because the CMC would always need a foil. (Also, not [i]every[/i] villain is redeemable, that’s a bad lesson to teach.)
And yet, these two things that were never going to happen ended up happening [i]in the same damn episode, smack dab in the middle of the season, because they weren’t even the biggest game-changers to happen in the season.[/i]
I get that a lot of fans feel like the show has an epic scale, and that the writers want to cater to that by giving closure to all of these ongoing plot points. But the fans already had the power to do that themselves. That’s [i]why[/i] they felt the show was epic, because they could become a part of it by making their own stories. I feel like the show is closing off all these creative opportunities in a misguided attempt to make these fans happy. They didn’t have to do that, even if the fans felt like they did. I think it would’ve been better for the fans, and the original intended audience of little girls, if they had just kept it as a normal TV show for little girls.
I haven’t seen the sixth season. I was going to say maybe the sixth season fixed some of these problems, except it’s [i]too late[/i] to fix them, that’s part of the problem. Also, I think you’re right, I think they’re building up to having the movie be the end of the series, and so I suspect they’re just going to keep making permanent changes to the plot as they build up to that. But the main reason I fell in love with the show is because I thought it had genuinely positive messages, and fortunately it still has those, so I may as well stick with it to the end. I can’t help but think it’s going to feel like a train wreck, though.