My Little Countdown: Top 10 "Friendship Is Magic" Episodes (2012)

I gave some thought to writing a “Why is ‘Friendship is Magic’ such an internet phenomenon?” post, but, honestly – fuck that. As a huge fan of the show, and someone who’s brought a bunch of people into the fandom, I’m yet to really read a good essay on the subject of why it’s good. It seems like a stupid question, really. Why is it good? Because it fucking is! It just is the kind of thing you have to see in order to understand. So instead, I’m making a list of what I personally consider the ten best episodes of the show.

Like I said before, I’m a huge fan of “Friendship is Magic”. As far as the first two seasons go, I’m still yet to be really disappointed by the show. Sure, some episodes are a bit lackluster (“The Showstoppers”, “The Mysterious Mare Do Well” and, I'm sorry, "Boast Busters", come to mind), but even these lesser ones invariably come with good laughs.

The ten episodes I’m listing next are what have, for me, embodied best why this show is so freaking rad. Either because of great laughs, a great story, or great writing in general.

10. Hearth's Warming Eve (Season 2, Episode 11)

A lot of people had issues with "Hearth's Warming Eve", and I'm still trying to figure out exactly why. Not only did we get the first real and detailed glimpse into Equestrian history, a lot of great underhanded political commentary, many quotable lines and new memes, we also got one of the rare instances in which the show gets out of its formula. The framing device of the play was expertly handled and allowed for some interesting and fluid storytelling. It was also great to see the Mane Six acting as different characters; it was refreshing. The animation was beautiful, particularly the wendigos, and the Equestrian Anthem in the end was a very pleasant surprise.

9. Bridle Gossip (Season 1, Episode 9)

I’m not a huge fan of Zecora like most of the fan base is, but this was the episode that made me realize how much I was enjoying the show when I first watched it. Generally the “all cast” episodes are the best, and this one shows precisely why. Not only did we get to see the entire cast interacting together, they added the “cursed” scenario that made everything much, much funnier. I almost lost my shit when I first heard Flutterguy, and totally lost it during the smooth jazz rendition of “Evil Enchantress”. Sure, the moral in the end seems a bit unnecessary and Apple Bloom was still growing as a character at this point, but goddamn was it funny.

8. Swarm of the Century (Season 1, Episode 10)

It’s funny that this episode comes right after “Bridle Gossip”, because I like it for pretty much exactly the same reasons. The story is clever (inspired by a “Star Trek” episode), the pacing is flawless, and it’s great to see how the chaos keeps escalating until it all goes to hell and Twilight loses her shit (the “Exact copy of Ponyville” joke gets me every time). There’s also an interesting twist on the moral, which turns out to be Pinkie Pie-related. This is interesting because Pinkie is MIA for a good chunk of the episode, leading to the ‘polka’ twist. Generally one of the most re-watchable episodes. 

7. Sonic Rainboom (Season 1 Episode 16)

For a while, before season 2 started, I was convinced this was my favorite episode. Centered on Rainbow Dash, “Sonic Rainboom” was one of the most exciting episodes to watch, and one that sparked a lot of continuity lines for the future (we see the Wonderbolts for the first time, as well as the actual ass-kicking, chills-inducing sonic rainboom and the asshole kids from flight school). For the first time the show takes us to Cloudsdale, which has an awesome design and creative mechanics (love the factory). We also get to see a new side of Rainbow Dash that really explores her personality and crippling fears of inadequacy. I did think this was still when the writers hadn’t gotten Rarity’s character totally right, which is why she comes off as unlikable.

6. It’s About Time (Season 2 Episode 20)

The episode that had bronies everywhere discussing theoretical physics. M.A. Larson (apparently my favorite writer) does a great job with the story even if the concept behind the causality time loop becomes apparent almost immediately, and is therefore predictable. There are a bunch of references to Greek mythology (can we have an epic season finale/premiere in Tartarus?), more exploration of the world including the Canterlot archives, a great montage as ponies try to ‘disaster-proof’ Equestria, and what I’m completely convinced is a reference to “Metal Gear Solid”. I really enjoyed that we get to see Pinkie and Twilight interact, as their contrasting personalities are always a blast to watch. I was particularly excited by the feeling of impending doom throughout and its climax in Canterlot Castle. Sure, there are a lot of parallelisms to “Lesson Zero”, but it didn’t bother me too much, and this stood on its own remarkably well.

5. The Cutie Mark Chronicles (Season 1 Episode 23)

Though it’s not a two-part episode like the series premiere, “The Cutie Mark Chronicles” was the first epic episode of “Friendship is Magic”. I was worried at first when I thought it would focus on the Cutie Mark Crusaders, as they were still annoying little turds back then, but the instant the ‘anthology’ nature of the episode kicked in, I was glued to the screen. The back-story of every character not only added depth to them, but also to the world itself. For the first time we get to see another city, life in Cloudsdale, and the details of Twilight's Magic school, as well as how her relationship with Celestia started. The twist in the end was, though predictable, brilliant and heartwarming. By far the best episode of season 1.

4. The Last Roundup (Season 2 Episode 14)

Oh man if you were a brony in January 2012, you shat brix with “The Last Roundup”. There’s just no way you didn't during a certain scene early on (“I just don’t know what went wrong!”). Not only was the scene in question the show’s greatest surprise and biggest nod from the creators to the fanbase, the controversy afterwards was shocking. Putting that aside, "The Last Roundup" was well paced, clever, and one of the most consistently funny episodes in the entire show. I love how, much like “Over a Barrel” and "Hearth's Warming Eve", we get a whole new dynamic as the show deviates from formula after a fundamentally intriguing premise involving Apple Jack’s disappearance. Add to this a shitload of references, action scenes, Pinkie being at her funniest and [sic] quotabliest, and you get one hell of an episode.

3. A Canterlot Wedding (Season 2 Episode 25 & 26)

The season 2 finale was promised to be big, and we were given hints to what it would entail from very early in the season when pictures of the “Shining Armor” and “Cadence” dolls leaked online. No one, however, expected just how big and epic it would turn out to be. With three amazing songs (including “This Day Aria”, which I consider the series’ best) and two reprises, beautiful music, two fantastic new characters I can’t wait to see again, a lot of drama, many surprises and a great ending, “A Canterlot Wedding” was a fantastic cap to the season. I really enjoyed the turn where, for once, it’s not Friendship what wins in the end—or even the Mane Six—but Love. The only reason why this isn’t number 1 is because there are a few things with the writing that bothered me, but they would be nitpicks.

2. The Return Of Harmony (Season 2 Episodes 1 & 2)

The two-parter with which season 2 premiered turned out to be a very unexpected and pleasant surprise. After Lauren Faust, creator of the show, stepped down from writing duties, most fans started worrying that the series would take a plunge—no one expected it would actually become much better. “The Return of Harmony” introduced Discord, a character who might be the series’ coolest and most fun to watch (and it would have never been thus without John DeLancie behind him). The first half ends on a killer cliffhanger, and the second turned into a constant climb in drama and humor. Also, seeing the ‘gray’ versions of the Mane Six without their respective Element was both freaking hilarious and sad to watch. Flutterbitch was by far the best. I remember being mortally hung over for Part 2 (Saturdays, man) and the chaos hit me like a bag of pointy rocks.

Oh, and exploding chocolate milk. Holy shit. 

1. Lesson Zero (Season 2 Episode 3)

My two (three?) favorite episodes of the show are the first of the season, so you can guess how excited I was about season 2. “Lesson Zero” was a great way to tell the fans that, though the show might be going in a slightly (emphasize slightly) different direction, it was one everyone would enjoy. This is by far the funniest episode in the series, and one that had the biggest collection of memorable moments (“Clock is ticking!”, Flutterbear, Sonic Rainbomb and Twilight's spiral into insanity to name a few). I also very much appreciated Celestia’s appearance in the end making everyone shit themselves and the twist involving how every one of the Mane Six (and apparently Spike) would have to write letters to her. This gave a lot of freedom to the writers, and they appropriately used it throughout the season. This is the episode I always use when I want to show people what the show really is about. It hasn’t failed me once, because it stands on its own, and as part of the show's continuity.

Runner Ups:
Putting Your Hoof Down (Season 2 Episode 19),  Luna Eclipsed (Season 2 Episode 4), Ponyville Confidential (Season 2 Episode 23), Over A Barrel (Season 1 Episode 21).

That’s it for me. I’m very excitedly anticipating season 3, and I have absolutely no doubt it will be as good as the first two were. If you’re interested in watching any of these or other episodes, try this great source.
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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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