Well, I am improving quickly, health-wise. I actually think that I'll be good to go after just a few more days, so that's a relief.
Now then, let's go on to Day 2 of Ponies Through The Ages. The second episode of a season is the most important out of all of them. It doesn't necessarily have to be the best (that's frequently episode seven's job, believe it or not). The fact is that episode one had only one job to do: make the viewer want to see episode two. Episode two has to do much more than that. It has to hook the viewer on the series as a whole. Episode two of later seasons after the first doesn't have to do this as much, as new viewers will typically make their mind up about a show after just one episode, if the show has been existing for a while and they likely heard of it through word of mouth. However, episode two of a returning season still must be decent enough to hook any new viewers who want to stick around for a second episode.
With that in mind, let's look at how MLPFiM handles this in "Friendship Is Magic Part 2", "The Return of Harmony Part 2", "The Crystal Empire Part 2", and "Princess Twilight Sparkle Part 2".
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"Friendship Is Magic Part 2" is a good episode. It helps Twilight grow as a character and, cheesy as it sounds, embrace the magic of friendship. We get to see each of the characters's strengths, and we get to expand on the setting a fair bit. The Everfree Forest in particular makes a great design, and since we'll be returning there many times throughout the season, it is important to establish it as soon as possible. It also ends on an overwhelmingly positive note, getting you in such a good mood that you have to keep watching to keep getting more happiness. Overall, this gets an A Plus.
"The Return of Harmony" is almost as good. Discord makes for a great villain, and the momentum that he was gaining in the first episode does not die here. We get to see his World of Chaos, and it is beautiful. This is definitely one of my favorite episodes to look at visually. It does wrap up a bit too fast (Pinkie Pie's recovery even happens off-screen), but this is actually okay. In order to add an additional scene, another scene must be removed to make room for it, and there's not really anything worth removing.
Then we move on to "The Crystal Empire" and boy does it suck. Sombra had so much buildup over Part 1, and what does he do in Part 2? Nothing. What did he do in Part 1? Nothing, but we at least saw how many ponies feared him, and so he appeared to be a threat. I was looking forward to seeing him in Part 2, but he was ultimately disappointing. On top of that, the ending was very deus-ex-machina'd. It felt like they just got a happy ending. By comparison, the previous two season openers ended with them EARNING a happy ending. Spike being the hero for once is nice, but his moment in the spotlight is quickly taken away from him to make room for Twilight's success at passing Celestia's test. Which is stupid. Also, Luna and Celestia showing us Star Swirl's journal at the end is really unnecessary, since it isn't going to be relevant until the finale anyways.
Of course, the box from Season 4 is very much the same way. The keys do get found over the course of the season, and to be fair, there is a reason to avoid story arcs in MLP: The Hub frequently airs the episodes out of order from their production order. As such, you need a story arc like this, which works regardless of what order you watch the episodes in. But something like that is very difficult to do. The rest of the Season 4 premiere is fine, and does a good job expanding on the mythos of where the Elements of Harmony came from. It also ensures that the Main Six can no longer use them, thus seemingly-preventing future deus ex machinas, which is a huge relief.