Finally, an episode that has grown better with a second chance.
When I first watched "Inspiration Manifestation", I was exhausted. The week before had been a pure filler episode, and before that there was no episode at all. It was a long, dull season with a disproportionate amount of subpar or mediocre episodes, and it prevented me from appreciating "Inspiration Manifestation" for what it is: One of the season's best episodes.
This episode is partially focused on Rarity, but in a way it's not. Rarity spends much of the episode in a deranged state, where she increasingly moves away from the character we're familiar with. Indeed, Rarity's character goes through absolutely no development in this episode, which is entirely forgiveable given that she's not herself for almost for the entirety of it. Instead, she serves as a buffer for Spike's character development, though that's not to say that she doesn't contribute to the episode in her own way. Rarity's terrifying here, growing increasingly deranged in a way that is both similar to Twilight in "Lesson Zero" and very different. While she is similarly threatening and unsettling, she doesn't have the personal touch that Twilight's breakdown possessed. As said, Rarity is hardly herself throughout the episode, being controlled by an ancient magic. It's something much more alien, and holds a completely different sort of threat.
Spike bounces off of Rarity and Owlicious in different ways, With Rarity, it's explored to what extent he'd enable her, showing off some major character development in his ability to say no to her. In fact, it actually almost seems as if Spike's starting to get over that crush of his, as the ending has him mentioning how he was trying to be a good friend. This could just be him hiding his actual feelings, but that it broke the spell most likely confirms it as truth. Meanwhile, this ties into the lesson, about how friendship doesn't always mean going along with whatever your friend says. It's a strong moral that's well supported by events in the episode, particularly Rarity's reaction in the conclusion.
Meanwhile, Owlicious serves as Spike's conscience, being present when Spike's doing something wrong, and often serving to remind Spike of his doubts. Spike repeatedly tries to justify himself to Owlicious, but his justifications almost seem peppered with doubt. At the very least, Owlicious is there to provide a voice of reason, and also allows for a lot of great dry humour. Owlicious' reactions to events are often funny, most notably his dry hoot in response to Spike blaming him for stealing the book. Owlicious is perhaps the most consistent source of comedy, but there is humour to be found elsewhere, particularly in Rarity's initial meltdown, which is exaggerated in reference to the "ice cream binge" cliche.
Altogether this is exactly why I started these second chances: To give a fair shake to an episode that I might have dismissed the first time around. Seeing now that this is such a strong episode, it makes me glad I did these second chances. This episode is simply excellent altogether, with some great humour, a fair deal of depth, and an unsettling turn from Rarity. There's a whole lot of great ideas here, something that S4 had often lacked, and this is as good a place as any to close this series of retrospective reviews. So long, and let's hope season 5 shines brighter than ever.