"A Canterlot Wedding" is one of those episodes so great that it's hard to describe how great it is. The script is tight, the story is great, the music is wonderful, the animation is gorgeous, the world is expanded, and that's not even all. When I first watched it, I put up a review on my other blog. Now, I've only grown to appreciate the episode more since, and my writing skills have improved drastically, so... where to begin?
Part 1 starts off fairly well with a few neat character moments, quickly introducing a question around which the episode's conflict begins to form: "Why didn't Shining Armour tell Twilight about his wedding in person?" We get a few cute moments between Twilight and Shining, as well as in Twilight's flashbacks, until Cadance is introduced. From here, the story expands, with the introduction of multiple new elements. Part 1 serves largely as set-up, but it's a tightly written set-up with a number of subtleties woven into characters' motivations. Cadance acts in a few odd ways that take on a very different light in part 2, whereas Twilight's frustration can be linked not only to worrying about her brother, but also to resentment towards "Cadance" for changing.
In my first review, I found it hard to swallow that nobody else would find "Cadance" unpleasant, but it's apparent to me now that she's only somewhat rude, which is something the other ponies probably understand given the circumstances. At the same time, Twilight reacts so intensely to "Cadance" because of how different that pony is from the babysitter she remembers. The scene where Twilight shouts at "Cadance" is still awkward, but Shining Armour talking to Twilight afterwards more than makes up for it. At the same time, that Twilight's friends and Celestia also act with disdain comes across as a bit overwrought.
The second part opens with a bang, revealing to us that who we thought was Cadance wasn't the real princess at all. On re-watch, there are hints that show "Cadance" may not have been who she seemed, and this is a strong reveal that makes sense of the events of the first part. In fact, almost the entirety of the two-parter is almost pitch-perfect, abounding with elements that make sense of other elements, just the right timing of events, and truly brilliant presentation. The second part quickly moves into "This Day Aria", a popular contender for the best song in the entire show, a rich, dark melody with soaring heights and lyrics that carefully texture what the two Cadances are thinking at the time.
The previous song, "BBBFF", is a more low-key affair, including some nice harmonies at the end and a nice story in the lyrics, but wording in the lyrics that compromises the sound of the melody, which is already a little underwhelming. Both "This Day Aria" and "BBBFF" boast reprises, which are more of small snippets of the song meant to fit the mood of the moment than a second occurrence. On the visual side of things, lighting maintains the excellent quality shown in the latter half of the season, animation is smooth and filled with tiny elements that make the already pleasing designs all the better, and the camera work frequently finds a shot that fits perfectly for the scene. The episode is gorgeous.
As "Cadance" reveals herself as Chrysalis, the Changeling Queen, Celestia fails to defeat her, the Queen being too strong from Shining Armour's love. Chrysalis is an interesting character, with many of her actions in part 1 implying an impulsive, hotheaded personality. She's somewhere between wanting the ceremony to be over with and having a certain vision for the wedding, expressing impatience but still being picky and demanding in regards to elements of the wedding. At the end of part 1, she has a perfect opportunity to take control of Twilight, but decides to take revenge instead. Clearly, Chrysalis' spite overpowers her tactical skills.
Part 2 also boasts a well-choreographed action scene. A lot goes on in this part, with a number of great character gags as well as the excitement of the main confrontation. Moments like Pinkie using Twilight as a Gatling gun are well-known, and for good reason: They're bursting with energy and creativity. Yet, in the end, Twilight and friends lose for the second time over the season's two-parters. It's interesting that the season is bookended by the Main Six barely managing to protect Equestria, and speaks to the riskiness of the season. "A Canterlot Wedding" does this in a more grandiose and obviously desperate way than the subtly desperate, darker turn that "The Return of Harmony" took, but it's no less effective.
The ending is a neat montage to a pop song, with the lovely couple finally getting married. "Love Is In Bloom" is super catchy, and fits the outro very well. After all the going-ons of the two-parter, having this montage is satisfying. Oh, and also, Luna returns, ruling the night in her sister's stead. It's nice to see her having settled back into her role.
There's so much to be said about "A Canterlot Wedding". The episode is brilliant in nearly every facet of its existence, having a great story, fantastic music, and gorgeous animation. With so many little details that all tie together, it's also one of the most subtle episodes the show has ever had. As a finale to a great second season, it's much more than anyone could have hoped for, and to say it satisfied would be an understatement.
In other words, it may very well be my favourite episode.