Increasingly, I find the blush is coming off the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic rose, as successive seasons of the show don’t manage to capture the lightning in a bottle that made its earlier seasons so thoroughly enjoyable, replacing that sense of fun with ever-more ponderous additions to the show’s mythology and especially to Twilight Sparkle. The Alicorn finale in season 3 made the questionable choice of elevating Twilight to a Princess, setting above her five Pony peers Applejack, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie. The episodes included on the most recent DVD, Keys of Friendship, end up going even further but for even more questionable returns. None of the episodes on this disc are bad by any means, but they are also not anywhere near as enjoyable as nearly all of season 1, or even the spotlight episodes found on the Pinkie Pie spotlight disc.
The episodes on this disc are taken largely from the show’s fourth season. Unlike many of the recent single-disc releases, Keys of Friendship doesn’t focus on one single Pony, putting the spotlight on other Ponies for three of its five episodes. “Rarity Takes Manehattan” centers on the fashionista Pony Rarity as she’s put through her paces in a fashion competition in the big city. I’m consistently surprised that the show can make Rarity so sympathetic, considering she sometimes does fit the expected shallow and vain stereotype of the fashion-obsessed. The episode is pretty entertaining over all, and manages to find a charming way to emphasize the show’s theme of the importance of friendship by the end. “Pinkie Apple Pie” splits its focus on the boisterous Pinkie Pie and the down-to-earth Applejack, as Pinkie uncovers evidence that she and Applejack may be distant relatives. This leads to a road trip for Pinkie and Applejack’s family to a Pony genealogist who might be able to answer the question once and for all. I found the episode surprisingly lackluster, considering the comedic potential of throwing just about any 2 Ponies together for a trouble-laden road trip. “It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies” centers on Fluttershy, and her efforts to aid in the migration of the tiny Breezies through Ponyville to the magical portal back to their natural home. The moral of being cruel to be kind is more muddled than it should be, and the episode is too predictable in a bad way, as many late-season episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic can be.
The two-part episode “Twilight’s Kingdom” closes this disc (and the show’s fourth season), loosely tying several episodes throughout season 4. It turns out that special items were hiding in plain sight in several season four episodes, coming together in this two-part finale as the keys to solving the show’s latest Big Big Problem: a demon named Tirek who threatens to conquer all of Equestria by stealing every Pony’s abilities. The wildcard in the episode is Discord, a trickster-ish character who has appeared on the show several times but is making a somewhat belated debut on DVD. The culmination of the episode (where I doubt it’s much of a spoiler to reveal that the Ponies prevail) leads to Twilight Sparkle earning her own kingdom.
I’m afraid I’ve never found My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic‘s attempts at epic stories to have much staying power; they’re effective expressions of an archetype, but are never quite as entertaining as many other single episodes of the show. Even so, “Twilight’s Kingdom” does not impress, since there are a number of plot twists that just make no sense at all. In addition, if I questioned the value of making Twilight Sparkle an Alicorn in the first place, I find myself even more leery of the further elevation she gets in this episode. I’m also baffled that more of the episodes that lead up to this one aren’t included on the disc. Only 2 of the 3 other episodes lead up to this finale, while the 3 other spotlight episodes are only mentioned in the briefest of recaps. Rainbow Dash’s episode appeared on the DVD A Dash of Awesome, but Applejack and Pinkie Pie’s episodes haven’t been released on DVD at all yet.
Shout! Factory’s presentation is the same as always, with all the episodes looking very good on DVD. The only bonus feature is a karaoke sing-along. I’m still hoping for a complete season 2 release as good as the season 1 DVD set, but such a release seems less likely as time goes on. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is not a bad show, but Keys of Friendship is not its finest hour.