Now THIS is what I'm talking about!
While I laughed at "Pinkie Apple Pie" when I first saw it, on a second time it's even more delightful than when I first watched it. That time, I was biased against the premise, but now that I'm looking in without any preconceptions, it puts a huge grin on my face. This episode is great.
One accusation that's been thrown at S4 is that Pinkie Pie's character is exaggerated. Watching this episode, I can't really deny it-Pinkie's hyperactivity has reached greater heights than ever-but, even based solely on "Pinkie Apple Pie", that is a great thing. Pinkie's a joy to watch here. Her consistently giddy attitude at absolutely everything reaches a manic fever pitch at times, and it's gloriously silly. It's actually kind of inspiring, as she takes pictures of all the drama and even the horrific monsters in the Scariest Cave in Equestria. However, especially with the ending, we can see her increased maturity from "Baby Cakes" and "Too Many Pinkie Pies" take hold, as she never gets in anyone's face and consciously keeps a good attitude throughout. It's honestly wonderful to see.
The Apple Family's conflicts, meanwhile, are entertaining in their own right. There's plenty of fun silliness to behold, and the ultimate result of their fear of looking bad to Pinkie Pie comes out nicely, especially in the moral. Each of the characters has a strong, unique personality, and they come together in fun ways throughout the episode.
The episode revolves around an adventure, but MLP simply doesn't convey a "feel of adventure" very well. It's fun to watch the trip, but it's all so closely focused on the characters that even though the episode brings us on a journey through new parts of Equestria, the feeling is more of a crazy road trip than an adventure. That's really what's aimed for here, though, and it's very effective.
The song, "Apples to the Core", which I apparently forgot to mention in my previous review, is possibly the season's best. It's an upbeat, particularly inspiring number about how a close-knit group can get through tough times and become closer. That's ultimately the main theme to this episode, though it specifically focuses on biological family. Now, that is in some ways a weakness, but it's also a realization of the promise of "Apple Family Reunion". It evokes a feeling of family, and provides far more substance and entertainment value to back it up.
At the same time, however, focusing simply on family could perhaps be seen as a missed opportunity. What many took from "Apples to the Core" was a message that could be extrapolated to non-family groups, and the ultimate message doesn't really address that strongly. Although Pinkie "honorarily" part of the Apple family could be taken as experience being more important than biological relations, having Pinkie be ambiguously an Apple dulls the edge a bit. The question of the episode is left unanswered, which is somewhat unsatisfying. More specifically, I do think that making it out as Pinkie being "an apple to the core" takes a bit away from the message. It's still there, to be certain, but it's not as strong as it could be.
All the same, this is a wonderful episode after all. Indeed, as far as these second chances go, this is exactly what I was hoping for: Taking an episode that left me a bit cold on the first watch and giving it a more fair second chance. Who knows? Maybe by the end I'll have a different view on S4 as a whole. What's definite is that "Pinkie Apple Pie" is a humongous amount of fun, and has a great moral to back it up. Truly a great episode that I didn't give a fair enough chance the first time around.