As Season 1 draws to a close, the Mane Six discover the pitfalls of expectation.
Episode 26: "The Best Night Ever"
After a season of anticipation -- including no small amount of controversy over who'll get to go, and what they'll wear -- it's finally the night of the Grand Galloping Gala! Not recognizing the gravity of the event, Spike is just excited because they'll all be visiting Canterlot together.
The others gently disabuse Spike of the belief that they'll be spending any time with him, since they'll all be busy their own separate agendas for the evening, none of which involve hanging out with the same ponies and/or dragon they already see every day. (We also get a shot of a momentarily straight-haired Pinkie Pie, and though she's not angry, it still feels like a glimpse of Dark Willow.)
As the Mane Six Plus Spike approach Canterlot, the aforementioned agendas are reiterated in the episode's first big Broadway-style showstopper, "At the Gala." Actually, it's the episode's only big Broadway-style showstopper, as the second song later in the episode is far less grandiose. But in "At the Gala," the ponies sing of the night that will surely make all their hopes and dreams come true -- a night which they can't begin to imagine might possibly go wrong in any way. (Remember how well that turned out in the similarly hopeful "Winter Wrap Up?")
So, let's review those agendas: Fluttershy will befriend the fauna in the Gala's garden; Applejack will make a lot of money for her family in apple concessions; Rarity will impress the Canterlot elite and finally meet her Prince Charming; Rainbow Dash will fly with the Wonderbolts; Pinkie Pie will be the life of the party; and Twilight Sparkle will get to spend some quality time with Princess Celestia. And poor Spike just wants to spend time with his friends, all of whom rush off when they arrive at the Gala.
Princess Celestia invites Twilight to stay by her side all evening: Check!
Rarity finds Prince Blueblood: Check!
Fluttershy hears a meadowlark calling her into the gardens: Check!
Applejack sells an apple pie (to Soaren of the Wonderbolts) in less than a minute: Check!
Rainbow Dash gets invited to hang out with said Wonderbolts: Check!
Pinkie Pie gets to dance at the Grand Galloping Gala: Check! ...except, huh. None of the stuffy attendees appreciate her style of party rockin', and that's not quite what she expected.
Rarity realizes that Prince Blueblood is a self-involved dandy, and not even a charming dandy like the sea serpent from the pilot.
Fluttershy discovers that it was not a meadowlark's song leading her into the gardens, but that of a grizzled groundskeeper. Worse, the garden's resident animals want nothing to do with her.
In the Gala, Rainbow is learning that hanging with the Wonderbolts is very difficult when you're at a noisy, crowded party, and moreso when the Wonderbolts have already forgotten that you exist.
Though she's at Princess Celestia's side, Twilight isn't able to talk to Celestia because of the latter's greeting duties.
After an hour, Applejack begins to realize she may have peaked at "first minute, first sale."
They're all feeling let down, but are they going to let the night slip away? Nope!
It's time for more direct action, or at least more direct patience, and it's all summed up beautifully when Pinkie Pie commandeers the stage for "The Pony Pokey." She promises it'll make them ponies shake their groove thangs, when in fact it's the saddest, most poignant song she'll ever sing, commenting on the disappointments her friends are all experiencing. You wouldn't expect any depth from a song titled "The Pony Pokey," but the title My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic doesn't exactly inspire confidence, either.
The whole song is great, but as the camera pulls away from Fluttershy, listen for her chilling scream, buried in the mix.
At Applejack's stand, Rarity is nearing her breaking point with Prince Blueblood...
...whose reaction to a bite of apple fritter leads Applejack to realize that the Gala attendees consider themselves above her simple offerings.
In the garden, Fluttershy has descended into her own eye-twitching psychosis as the garden's animals cower in fear...
...and inside the Gala, Pinkie's efforts to get everypony to drop it like it's hot are not working.
Applejack brings in a fancy new artisanal cake on her cart, right in the path of an ill-timed stage dive by Pinkie...
...sending the cake flying because of physics!, and Prince Blueblood hides behind Rarity to avoid getting splattered. Okay, now Rarity's at her breaking point.
The Gala itself is at its own breaking point after Rainbow Dash accidentally demolishes much of it in another misbegotten attempt to be noticed by the Wonderbolts...
...just in time for newborn supervillain Fluttershy to let loose a swarm of a terrified animals who, for some reason, are not calmed by her presence.
Surveying the chaos, Princess Celestia has one word of advice for them all.
Y'know, I'm finally beginning to like Celestia.
The rendezvous at a donut shop, where a neglected Spike has been comforting himself Homer Simpson-style.
Princess Celestia arrives, surprisingly thrilled by how things went, and reveals her master plan: Since the Grand Galloping Gala is always boring and stuffy, she was hoping the Mane Six would make it interesting for a change, and they delivered.
And even though things didn't go at all how they'd hoped when they went off on their own, they're back together now and can laugh about it, so, y'know what? Maybe it really was the best night ever.
It's certainly the best My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic season finale ever. (With all due respect to next season's "A Canterlot Wedding," which I'll get to eventually.)