I’m in the process of writing up a longer post comparing the three seasons of FiM so far, and I realized a pattern in the sorts of conflicts they had and the lessons they taught. There are exceptions in each season, so it’s far from perfect, but I think it’s there.
Season one was about learning how to live with your friends. The lessons were largely interpersonal, about how to treat other ponies properly. They were all very different from each other and got into a lot of conflicts and they had to sort that out.
I think season two inverted that. I feel the focus shifted more towards the intrapersonal. Learning not to worry so much, to have pride in your home, to be responsible, to believe in yourself, to try new things, to not jump to crazy conclusions. Rather than emphasizing how to treat your friends properly, it emphasized how they help you grow and become a better person.
And season three, I feel, was to a large extent about looking back and seeing how far they’ve come and how much they’ve grown up. Twilight can pass her test and save the Crystal Empire. She can beat Trixie even without being better at magic. Rainbow Dash can show enough vulnerability and kindness to care for Scootaloo (don’t even tell me she could’ve done that in season one). She was in an episode with a brash, thoughtless, overly competetive jerk, and it wasn’t her, because she already learned that lesson. Applejack is taking on more responsibilities, organizing the family reunion and really becoming the leader of her family. Fluttershy had the strength, guile, and compassion to help Discord reform. And we all know what happened in the end. They’ve all come so far, and they’re growing into their place in the world.
It’s sort of funny, realizing this. They told us the theme of season three at the very beginning.
“Turns out you were prepared for this.”