After having finally gone through the first three seasons again, I'm gonna be giving second chances to certain episodes of S4 that I might have not given a fair enough shake the first time around. First up we have "Flight to the Finish", an episode that initially failed to leave much of an impact on me whatsoever.
Watching "Flight to the Finish" again, I appreciate it a lot more. There's certainly some interesting things going on with the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and while those things still didn't resonate with me, I can recognize them more. Still, there's a lot in the episode that just doesn't hit the mark for me.
While initially there's some great comedy, for some reason it seems to mostly go away after the song. There's still some comic moments, particularly from Rainbow's attempts to be professional, but by and large the episode seems to not be focusing on comedy that much.
Yet, as a plot episode, there's a significant problem. The pacing is really sloppy. A lot of character moments are rushed. We only get the briefest of glimpses at why Scootaloo is so bothered by not being able to fly, and otherwise the conflict is simply too under-developed to be interesting. Meanwhile, later we see a falling out between the CMC. This rift is barely glossed over, and just a couple minutes later they've returned to make up with Scoots. There's conflicts here, but there isn't much attention paid to them. One scene shows the CMC tired when practising a second time. The implication is that they stayed up practising Scootaloo's revised performance all night, but there's no other indication whatsoever that this happened aside from Scootaloo wanting to change the routine. These are just some examples of how the episode is rushed.
The ending is more satisfying, featuring a reaffirmation of the CMC's bond as a microcosm of Ponyville. It seems this was what the episode was interested in, but there isn't enough focus or direction to really make it work. Ultimately the theme still comes through, mostly due to being spelled out for us, and there's at least hints towards it in the episode, but the main story is too underdeveloped and scattered to take an interest in.
Characters work a bit better. While the characterization of Scootaloo is partially only implied, it's still interesting. Scootaloo is worried about not living up to Rainbow Dash, which was also suggested in "Sleepless in Ponyville". It's an interesting idea, and even if the episode addresses it a grand total of twice, it does add to Scootaloo's character. Rainbow Dash's constraint, meanwhile, continues to show off her character development, though at this point we're used to it. Still, Rainbow is probably the most fun character in the episode, mostly due to her enthusiasm. Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara are given a better reason to antagonize the CMC than usual, yet at the same time are at their least interesting and most irritating.
The song "Hearts as Strong as Horses" is not the shows strongest. The instrumental is great, but the vocals fail to back it up. Compared to "Babs Seed", there's a small lack of dynamics and energy, with the song occasionally feeling a little flat and composition being a largely uninteresting tune. The worst part, though, is the chorus, which is disappointingly repetitive and is really what kills the song. It's a little catchy, but it isn't very fun.
This episode has a few interesting elements, but ultimately it falls flat. For the first episode I was giving a second chance, this is disappointing. I was expecting there would be some key component I missed, but the episode doesn't resonate with me much more than it did before. It's a bit of a mess, really, though thankfully the other episodes up to that point more than made up for it. Next up, "Pinkie Apple Pie".