MLP:FiM Episode Reviews: Character and Story Analysis by Half the Battle

With just a couple exceptions, I consider all MLP episodes entertaining and a cut above most other animated series. By an objective rating, the vast majority could earn four out of five stars or better. But I think it's only fair to judge the stories by the standard of their own series, so I've scaled the episodes to create five groups of about-equal number, except for the shows at the very top. These form the Genji tier, which contains (at most) one or two stories per season that pushed the boundaries of what I expected from the series. The Crystal tier designates the other real masterpieces of the series, the shows that stand significantly above the wonderful series premiere. The Diamond tier are all great episodes without significant flaws; some are simply a bit lighter fare than the powerhouse Crystal episodes, but they're solid and entertaining (i.e, both strong and shiny). The Gold tier captures the middle group, still entertaining but a little softer, perhaps with significant minor issues or else simply outdone by many other episodes. The Iron tier contains episodes that, while still strong in certain ways, fall below the average for various reasons. The bottom Leather tier are of mixed quality or are weighed down by major issues, usually character and messaging problems.

SOME EPISODES CHANGED TIERS based on the ranking of later episodes. For example, when there were only 65 episodes, A Friend in Deed ranked 25th, which placed it in the Diamond tier. At the end of the series, it ranked 150th out of 233, near the top of the Iron tier. My perception of the episode itself hasn't changed, but it was outshone by many later episodes. In fact, with so many spectacular entries, one significant concern is enough to kick a story down to the Gold tier if not Iron. Even the median episode (The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows) is one I consider highly excellent. The text reviews have been updated with the final rankings, but the videos resist editing and so still reflect the episode's tier at the time the video was created.

I'm not including the 100+ shorts released. It seemed unfitting to compare them with the longer stories since they're so different in medium and tone, but they may receive their own separate ranking some time in the future.

All Episodes & Movies Ranked

Season-by-Season Analysis

Episodes sorted by rank. Since the third season is only half the length of the others, I'm considering each half of the longer seasons separately. Stats on this scale show steady improvement for most of the series, peaking at Season 7. Season 8 was about on par with Season 4, and Season 9 with Season 6.

Season 1a: 0 Genji/Crystal, 2 Diamond, 1 Gold, 4 Iron, 6 Leather. Mean rank=175.6 (median 189).
Friendship Is Magic; Winter Wrap Up; Swarm of the Century; Dragonshy; The Ticket Master; Griffon the Brush Off; Applebuck Season; Bridle Gossip; Call of the Cutie; Fall Weather Friends; Boast Busters; Look Before You Sleep.
Season 1b: 1 Genji/Crystal, 1 Diamond, 2 Gold, 4 Iron, 5 Leather. Mean rank=165.3 (median 179).
The Cutie Mark Chronicles; The Best Night Ever; Green Isn't Your Color; A Dog and Pony Show; Sonic Rainboom; Stare Master; Suited for Success; Party of One; Feeling Pinkie Keen; The Show Stoppers; Over a Barrel; Owl's Well that Ends Well; A Bird in the Hoof.
Season 2a: 4 Genji/Crystal, 0 Diamond, 2 Gold, 2 Iron, 5 Leather. Mean rank=140.3 (median 156).
Luna Eclipsed; Lesson Zero; The Return of Harmony; Sisterhooves Social; Sweet and Elite; May the Best Pet Win!; Secret of My Excess; The Cutie Pox; Hearth's Warming Eve; Family Appreciation Day; Baby Cakes; The Mysterious Mare Do Well.
Season 2b: 3 Genji/Crystal, 3 Diamond, 0 Gold, 2 Iron, 5 Leather. Mean rank=131.6 (median 150).
The Last Roundup; A Canterlot Wedding; Hurricane Fluttershy; MMMystery on the Friendship Express; It's About Time; A Friend in Deed; Read It and Weep; Ponyville Confidential; Hearts and Hooves Day; Dragon Quest; The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000; Putting Your Hoof Down.
Season 3: 4 Genji/Crystal, 0 Diamond, 2 Gold, 5 Iron, 3 Leather. Mean rank=135.5 (median 154).
Sleepless in Ponyville; Magical Mystery Cure; The Crystal Empire; Equestria Girls; Too Many Pinkie Pies; Wonderbolts Academy; One Bad Apple; Magic Duel; Keep Calm and Flutter On; Apple Family Reunion; Games Ponies Play; Just for Sidekicks; Spike at Your Service.
Season 4a: 2 Genji/Crystal, 2 Diamond, 5 Gold, 5 Iron, 0 Leather. Mean rank=126.5 (median 145).
Daring Don't; Three's a Crowd; Pinkie Apple Pie; Simple Ways; Power Ponies; Castle Mane-ia; Bats!; Rainbow Falls.
Season 4b: 3 Genji/Crystal, 4 Diamond, 2 Gold, 3 Iron, 2 Leather. Mean rank=108.3 (median 97).
Twilight's Kingdom; For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils; Filli Vanilli; Maud Pie; Testing Testing 1, 2, 3; Rainbow Rocks; Leap of Faith; Somepony to Watch Over Me; Twilight Time; Trade Ya!; Equestria Games; It Ain't Easy Being Breezies; Inspiration Manifestation.
Season 5a: 2 Genji/Crystal, 5 Diamond, 3 Gold, 0 Iron, 3 Leather. Mean rank=110.0 (median 93).
Amending Fences; Slice of Life; Tanks for the Memories; Castle Sweet Castle; Party Pooped; The Cutie Map; Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?; Bloom & Gloom; Make New Friends but Keep Discord; The Lost Treasure of Griffinstone; Appleoosa's Most Wanted; Princess Spike.
Season 5b: 5 Genji/Crystal, 1 Diamond, 5 Gold, 3 Iron, 0 Leather. Mean rank=98.2 (median 117.5).
Crusaders of the Lost Mark; The Mane Attraction; Scare Master; The Cutie Re-Mark; Hearthbreakers; Friendship Games; The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows; The Hooffields and McColts; Canterlot Boutique; Made in Manehattan; Rarity Investigates!; What About Discord?; Brotherhooves Social
Season 6a: 3 Genji/Crystal, 4 Diamond, 2 Gold, 3 Iron, 0 Leather. Mean rank=100.8 (median 89.5).
Flutter Brutter; Gauntlet of Fire; No Second Prances; A Hearth's Warming Tail; The Crystalling; The Gift of the Maud Pie; The Saddle Row Review; Newbie Dash; Spice Up Your Life; Applejack's "Day" Off; On Your Marks
Season 6b: 5 Genji/Crystal, 4 Diamond, 3 Gold, 1 Iron, 2 Leather. Mean rank=97.2 (median 82)
To Where and Back Again; Top Bolt; The Times They Are a Changeling; Every Little Thing She Does; Dungeons & Discords; 28 Pranks Later; The Fault in Our Cutie Marks; Viva Las Pegasus; Buckball Season; Legend of Everfree; Where the Apple Lies; Stranger Than Fan Fiction; The Cart Before the Ponies; P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View)
Season 7a: 4 Genji/Crystal, 3 Diamond, 2 Gold, 2 Iron, 1 Leather. Mean rank=97.6 (median 87)
A Royal Problem; Parental Glideance; Celestial Advice; Rock Solid Friendship; All Bottled Up; Not Asking for Trouble; A Flurry of Emotions; Magical Movie Night; Fluttershy Leans In; Honest Apple; Forever Filly; Hard to Say Anything
Season 7b: 8 Genji/Crystal, 2 Diamond, 4 Gold, 2 Iron, 0 Leather. Mean rank=75.4 (median 60.5)
The Perfect Pear; Shadow Play; My Little Pony: The Movie; Fame and Misfortune; Once Upon a Zeppelin; A Health of Information; Discordant Harmony; To Change a Changeling; Campfire Tales; Uncommon Bond; Triple Threat; Secrets and Pies; Daring Done?; It Isn't the Mane Thing About You; Marks and Recreation
Season 8a: 3 Genji/Crystal, 2 Diamond, 5 Gold, 2 Iron, 2 Leather. Mean rank=122.8 (median 126.5)
Horse Play; School Daze; The Mean 6; The Maud Couple; Surf and/or Turf; Forgotten Friendship; The Break Up Break Down; Marks for Effort; The Parent Map; Fake It 'Til You Make It; Grannies Gone Wild; Molt Down; Non-Compete Clause
Season 8b: 3 Genji/Crystal, 2 Diamond, 3 Gold, 3 Iron, 4 Leather. Mean rank=130.9 (median 139)
School Raze; A Rockhoof and a Hard Place; Best Gift Ever; What Lies Beneath; Road to Friendship; Sounds of Silence; The Hearth's Warming Club; Father Knows Beast; Friendship University; The Washouts; Rolleroaster of Friendship; Yakity-Sax; A Matter of Principals; The End in Friend
Season 9a: 3 Genji/Crystal, 7 Diamond, 2 Gold, 0 Iron, 3 Leather. Mean rank=97.2 (median 80)
Frenemies; Sparkle's Seven; She's All Yak; The Beginning of the End; Spring Breakdown; Between Dark and Dawn; Common Ground; Student Counsel; The Last Crusade; Rainbow Roadtrip; The Point of No Return; Sweet and Smoky; Uprooted; Going to Seed
Season 9b: 4 Genji/Crystal, 5 Diamond, 3 Gold, 1 Iron, 1 Leather. Mean rank=89.1 (median 86)
The Ending of the End; The Last Problem; Sunset's Backstage Pass; The Summer Sun Setback; A Horse Shoe-In; The Big Mac Question; The Last Laugh; A Trivial Pursuit; Dragon Dropped; Growing Up Is Hard to Do; She Talks to Angel; Daring Doubt; 2,4,6, Greaaat

 

Season-wide Numbers:
Season 1: Mean 170.46, Median 187
Season 2: Mean 135.96, Median 153
Season 3: Mean 135.50, Median 154
Season 4: Mean 117.04, Median 135
Season 5: Mean 103.89, Median 106
Season 6: Mean 98.78, Median 90
Season 7: Mean 84.89, Median 82.5
Season 8: Mean 126.97, Median 134
Season 9: Mean 93.31, Median 83
All Seasons: Mean 117, Median 117