You couldn't get much more of a contrast in styles and themes than that displayed by the two most recent new episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Thanks to Summer convention spoilers, the eps' content was no secret, but the manner in which the subject matter would be executed was a focal point of considerable debate. It turned out that the ep with the quieter, more character-based approach was more successful -- which says something, I think, about the series' need to continue playing to its strengths and minimize the use of flashy, less substantial "gimmick episodes."
"Flight to the Finish" was expected to answer the longstanding question of whether Scootaloo of the Cutie Mark Crusaders could, or would ever, fly. Apparently, a largish segment of the fandom had a sizable emotional investment in the notion that Scootaloo could NOT fly and that she was, in fact, disabled. "She had BETTER be disabled, is all I can say," wrote one Brony before the episode aired. Well, the ep ended up leaving the question unanswered -- and, in fact, neutralized it by emphasizing that Scootaloo's ability to fly was completely irrelevant to the CMC's immediate purpose of winning the right to carry Ponyville's flag at the upcoming Equestria Games. Some folks were upset at the fact that Scoots' condition was not pinned down, but I can understand the writing staff wanting to keep its options open for later developments, including the not-entirely-inconsiderable one that the fillies are still trying to get their "cutie marks." At least the ep did reveal that Scootaloo isn't homeless, as ANOTHER segment of Bronies (which I'll call the "Scootabuse" crowd) were inclined to believe.
Power Ponies" was the exact opposite, a slam-bang, quick-paced, funny superhero parody without a brain in its head. The Mane 6 and Spike literally get sucked into a comic-book world that they can only escape by defeating the Mane-iac, your standard over-the-top, cackling villain with a crazy take-over-the-city plot, this one involving (if you can believe it) a giant hair dryer. The "Power Pony" characters in Spike's comic book just happen to have skill sets that mirror many of those of the Mane 6, which certainly helped the Mane 6's cause. I'm no doubt prejudiced, but I think Rarity, who took the Green Lantern role of a character who is able to materialize various (fashionable!) inanimate objects by manipulating her jewelry, pretty much stole the show. Not only was "Radiance" quick to master her powers, but she got virtually all of the best gags. Fluttershy also stole at least a part of the show with her transformation into "Flutterhulk."
Upcoming episodes seem to be split between the approaches taken in "Flight" and "Power," with, I'm happy to say, a leaning towards the former. Granted, we will be getting an ep guest-starring Weird Al Yankovic as (apparently) a partying rival of Pinkie Pie's, but we'll also be seeing eps centering around conflicts between members of the Mane 6, Pinkie's search for her roots, and a rival designer ripping off Rarity's fashion line, all of which would seem to be solidly character-centered. Also, it seems almost inevitable that February will bring an Equestria Games storyline of some kind to tie in with the Winter Olympics in Sochi. It's been a very entertaining Season 4 thus far, and I expect the show to keep up its high batting average.