I don't write these journal posts enough, and I figure now's a good time, since everyone's talking about the new season premier.
Spoilers follow. If that matters to you, DO NOT read if you have not yet seen it.
First off, the animation has obviously improved yet again. I especially liked the transformation sequence from Luna to Nightmare Moon. There were also some pretty interesting creature designs that seem to expand on the world they're living in, like that (rock) crocodile, and those spitting venus fly trap plants. The dark colors and sharp lines of the aggressive plants were surprisingly "edgy" for MLP. This episode felt a bit on the dark side. It certainly felt darker in tone than the season 2 premier when we see Discord for the first time, which is what I considered the darkest MLP episode to date, until this new premier.
That flashback sequence was certainly dramatic, and I'm glad to have seen it, but it felt just a little too short, in my opinion. I would have liked to have seen a little more insight into Luna's and Celestia's character from this back story. That's a small criticism though. Seeing Celestia and Luna actually DO STUFF for a change is already a lot more than we've gotten before.
Seeing Twilight continue to struggle with her new wings was, of course, adorkable, and fun to see. It was great to see Zecora again as well, even if her only role was to bring in some magical plot device to give Twilight expositional visions. I'm also very happy with how they are handling Discord's continuing presence as a "good" guy, and how even now they're not entirely comfortable with him and his behavior.
I had a little head-canon about the origin of the Elements of Harmony that was ruined by that "Harmony Tree", but whatever.
I did think it was surprisingly bold of the writers to have the Mane 6 give up the elements to the tree, essentially relinquishing their go-to "deux ex machina", which has been with them since the pilot. It was a choice that will surely have an impact on future episodes, and I'm hoping that it means they might go for more of a serial type of story arch, spanning an entire season, rather than the very "episodic" format of before. It IS still technically a show for little girls, so I don't know. We'll see. I also think it makes the situation with Discord more interesting, because now his continuing choice to behave himself actually has some weight to it, rather than it being just because he is being coerced by the threat of the elements.
So yeah, that's my two cents on today's premier. Let me know what you think and feel free to share your own impressions in the comments.