All the monsters fought, the letters to the princess that have been sent, weddings attended, mysteries solved, changeling invasions stopped, star characters becoming alicorns... and so on. And I think we've all learned something about friendship along the way.
Yes, it's been a wild ride getting to this point, and looks to continue on for a while longer still.
But with the series having just recently hit a landmark of one hundred episodes, it does seem like the perfect time to come full circle, and reflect back on that faithful day that started it all...
...and the ponies who had inadvertently been left behind because of it.
But this episode turns this on its head when it is revealed that, though Twilight didn't seem to see the significance of it at the time, she actually did have friends back in Canterlot, and now, after five seasons, a casual comment from Spike makes her realize she had more or less abandoned them when she left for Ponyville, and decides she was past due to make amends, and goes back to the beginning to do so.
It's actually a lovely and delightfully nostalgic premise, so much so I'm actually a little surprised this one wasn't the 100th episode, as it actually seems to fit the commemorating theme a bit better with it's retrospective attitude. It was wonderful for the show to go back and revisit these settings that it had all began with, in addition to giving new insight at what Twilight's life was like before coming to Ponyville.
But that said, I was actually kind of touched by this episode overall, not just for reflecting back on things like that, but also pointing out that Twilight had left unfinished business in Canterlot that needed addressing still, and that even Twilight wasn't so much of an introvert back then that she couldn't still make friends...even though she seems to sort of done so without meaning to do so, but in a way I like that even better, because that's really how a lot of friendships start. You don't ever really go into a first meeting with the deliberate intent of making them your friend by the time you walk away (unless your Pinkie Pie).
I also liked the fact that shows that, princess of friendship she may now be, but even Twilight Sparkle still has more to learn about friendship. The fact that (most of) her old Canterlot friends had both kept track of Twilight's progress and supported her from afar and has intermingled and befriended her Ponyville friends all without Twilight realizing it demonstrates that Twilight may have come far, but she's not perfect, and still has further to go still. Which for the show testifies that it believes it still has plenty more friendship lessons to teach and doesn't intend to stop soon, a comforting thought.
Most touching of all, though, was the idea that Twilight's sudden departure from Canterlot, without even looking back it seems, actually had significant repercussions on these friends. Minuette, Lemon Hearts, and Twinkleshine all shrugged off Twilight's sudden departure as understandable and hadn't taken it personally, but it did result in a significant disconnect so that, even though they had continued to support Twilight in various ways from afar, they had been brushed aside and that support had been given but not returned by Twilight, something Twilight feels justifiably guilty about.
Then, of course, there's Moondancer, who we know had been verbally mentioned before, but had never actually appeared on screen until now, and see that, unlike the others, she had taken Twilight's departure personally, because she was much like Twilight; an introvert more interested in studies than friends. But she had connected with Twilight that could've changed, and was willing to come out of her shell with that famed party Twilight was invited to...only to be crushed when Twilight not just failed to show up, but dismissed it entirely and in the same day, left Canterlot altogether without even saying goodbye. And thus through Moondancer we get the chance to see what might have happened to Twilight had she not discovered friendship herself...and it's not pretty.
So Twilight, of course, wants to make amends. But she is then faced with a problem: how do you make amends for something like this, something Moondancer is perfectly justified in being rather, shall we say, miffed about?
Eventually, though Twilight gives it her all, even she eventually has to concede that you can't; at least not fully. You can just smooth it over. Nothing really could quite make up for that, and the fact the show, which has long built it's reputation on showing there is no problem so big it can't be fixed, readily admitted that is perhaps the best part of all, and was very grown-up of it to admit. The emotions that were demonstrated when all of this discussed was also wonderfully portrayed, and you can't help but let your heart go out to these poor ponies, both for Moondancer who feels abandoned and hurt, and for Twilight for her enormous guilt for being the pony to blame. It's almost a tearjerker for me, even.
Yet despite that and the damage that one event back in the beginning of MLP had been for more than one pony, it's still heartwarming to see that even though there wasn't really anything Twilight could do to make up for it fully, she's still able to smooth over the damage she had foolishly wrought enough that peace is still found, things are put back on track for recovery, lost friendships restored, and Twilight is able to do for Moondancer what had been done for her; that there's more to life than dusty old books, and manages to introduce her to the joys of friendship much like Twilight herself had been given.
I have to admit though, I was kind of surprised that Twilight's old Canterlot apartment (for lack of a better word) had been left untouched since her departure, as I find this a little unrealistic. At the very least, I would've thought Twilight would've at some point gone back to collect at least the books from the apartment (especially after the destruction of the library, may it rest it peace). But even more so, I would've thought somepony else would've moved in and claimed it as there own, giving yet another pony Twilight had to work through during all of this in order to gain access to this old setting, which I think would've been very interesting to have, and I think was a bit of a missed opportunity there, writing-wise...but so much for regrets, right?
I also thought Minuette, Lemon Hearts, and Twinkleshine came across as just a little too...peppy. I mean, I get the fact that they forgave and forgot and actually find it perfectly believable, I just thought they came across as...I don't know...a bit too quick to pick up from where they left off after being apart for so long. It was bad enough that early on, I was questioning whether or not their friendly behavior was actually genunine to Twilight (initially making me assume a different plot was in mind until the subject of Moondancer popped up), so maybe they should have been handled a little differently. I would've really liked it if Twilight had various things she had to make up with even them too, as it would've helped to drive the point home further still, but there probably just wasn't time for that and Moondancer's storyarc as well.
I also thought Lyra's inclusion as one of Twilight's "old" friends a little shoehorned as Twilight is around Lyra on a regular basis yet never seems to socialize with her ever, so the fact she's supposed to be a friend when the two have never reacted as such to each other seems a bit hard to swallow. But at least it does give an explanation as to why Lyra was there in Canterlot on that same faithful day back in the pilot:
...though the fan conspiracy that all of the ponies of Equestria are actually just following Twilight around Equestria certainly was a fun one...
Finally, I also found the fact that Moondancer is basically just a recolored Twilight with Harry Potter glasses (because they're all taped up, see?...never mind) a bit cheap and overall unnecessary. I suspect the reason it was done was so to give a visual clue that Moondancer was much like Twilight in many ways, but if so, I think it was unnecessary, and that her manner of behavior was more than enough to give us that same clue. Thus her being a lookalike just seems like both overkill and that they're freakishly twins who have no need to be.
But all in all, a wonderful episode, the best of the season thus far (yes, better than "Slice of Life"!), and definitely one of the best of the whole show in my book.