Neal Dusedau has arguably been the most hated writer on the series since season 5, succeeding Merriwether Williams and perhaps Charlotte Fullerton, as all of the episodes he is credited for are receiving seemingly greater than average criticism. However, although I did not like his episodes much myself, I feel that much of the criticism and comments to have him fired from the show are largely unwarranted and premature, as his involvement in the show has been very limited. There are several reasons for this, mainly coming from questionable logic, which I will examine by discussing his credited contribution in each individual episode where he is credited: "Princess Spike", "What About Discord" and "Applejack’s “Day” Off".
In all of these episodes, he is only solely credited for writing “What About Discord” and both of the others also had at least two other writers involved in at least the story credit if not also the "written by" component. “Princess Spike” had a story written by the directors Jayson Thiessen and Jim Miller, who also wrote the stories for “Party Pooped” and “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sleep” which were respectively written by Nick Confalone and Scott Sonneborn. As all three of these episodes have at least some criticism, who is to say that maybe they are to blame and not the writers? I don’t know what exactly the story credit encompasses, but it seems to be subordinate to the "written by" credit and is seemingly associated with the episode’s outline and premise. People criticize “Princess Spike” for being very contrived towards Spike abusing power. However, the contrived premise of Spike becoming power mad by making decisions in Twilight’s name is clearly not Dusedau’s fault as he did not work on the story, but Thiessen and Miller’s, as such a premise already sounds pretty contrived, assuming this theory is correct. In addition, Spike episodes have a reputation of being notoriously contrived into Spike making mistakes, as exemplified by “Owl’s Well that Ends Well” and the dreaded “Spike at your Service”, which all boil down to their premises. We can’t single his writing out if he was given a bad premise by others to work with.
Continuing on the issue of the Story credit, I actually liked “Applejack’s “Day” Off,” but it is also criticized for pacing like “What About Discord”. However, this time Dusedau was only credited for the story, which is probably once again merely a premise. The difference between this episode and "Princess Spike" is that Dusedau is not credited for the story in the latter episode at all, effectively meaning that Thiessen and Miller had more involvement with "Princess Spike" than Dusedau had with "Applejack's "Day" Off". The Fox Brothers also worked on the story and actually wrote the episode itself. As they were credited for both the story and writing this episode, they effectively had more involvement in Applejack's "Day" Off than Dusedau had for Princess Spike. I believe that they should be thanked or blamed (depending on your opinion) for this polarizing episode as they clearly had more involvement than he did. Blaming Dusedau would therefore be scapegoating, and no one seems to attribute Josh Haber or Kevin Burke and Chris Wyatt for the Fox brothers’ other episodes, “The Gift of Maud Pie” and “P.P.O.V.” respectively, although they were given the exact same credit for those episodes as Dusedau was given for this one. As Dusedau was only credited for the story of this episode, nothing in the premise or outline he was assumed to have contributed to seems consistent with the main complaints people have of this episode, except for maybe having too much filler. But once again, the Fox Brothers also worked on the Story and actually wrote the episode itself, so it will be hard to distinguish each of their individual contributions to the story. As this episode's writers', they also had several opportunities to edit out or at least reduce the filler when writing the subsequent drafts, but they clearly did not.
“What About Discord” is the only episode where I feel that the writing can be blamed solely on him as he was the only one credited for it. It was based on the critically lauded film “What About Bob”, which I have never seen. It has also been argued that all three of these episodes have a consistent, boring, slow-paced style, with plot holes and characters being portrayed stupidly which critics automatically trace to Dusedau, disregarding these points of how in two of the three episodes, there were at least two other writers working on at least the story. However, I found What About Discord to be closer to Applejack's "Day" Off than "Princess Spike." Whereas the latter was more like a contrived ticking time bomb (which I have already minimized his involvement), the former two were paced in a more routine, slice-of-life way. Therefore, I find that since the episode where he has the least credit was more consistent with the one he has the greatest credit, I still think that he has yet to establish a consistent style.
On the issue of pacing, people blame Dusedau for supposedly torturing Twilight in this episode. But then again, director Jim Miller tweeted here that the audience was not supposed to understand the in-jokes, and was instead meant to feel lost and confused like Twilight was in the episode, meaning he too deserves blame if you find this an issue . I did not find it to be as bad as Princess Spike, and I found that Discord's portrayal was fairly consistent to his portrayal in other episodes featuring a reformed Discord, so I do not think Dusedau is to blame exclusively for those who think he is to blame for his supposedly insensitive depiction in this episode. The season four premiere is credited by some as the best season premiere, although Discord's portrayal was equally, if not more unpleasant in it than in this episode. It can also be said that it was justified then because Discord was never fully reformed until the season 4 finale. But in his subsequent appearances, he still often contributes to the conflict like in "Make New Friends but Keep Discord", implying he still has a lot to learn about friendship, after all, Twilight is still learning about it since she began in the first episode. Who is to say that that was not the case in this episode? Furthermore, I think it was made abundantly clear that Discord never intended to make Twilight feel left out. As he said, It was all just a "happy accident."
In the end, I think that Dusedau has had fairly limited involvement in the series, having only solely written one episode, meaning that it is still too early to judge his writing style. Furthermore, I think the blame for Applejack’s “Day” Off is coming mostly by guilt by association as I think that episode should be much more attributed to the Fox brothers. Princess Spike is really just one of many Spike episodes with a contrived premise contributing to a bad final result; the only Spike episodes I have actually enjoyed prior to this were "Inspiration Manifestation" and "Secret of My Excess". I know that a fair amount of people disliked “Party Pooped” because they found the Yaks obnoxious or “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep” because of Luna’s self-harm, but remember, Miller and Thiessen wrote the stories for those episodes too. Based on the assumption that the story is a premise, Luna harming herself is therefore the idea of those who wrote the story in the same way that it is their idea for Spike to abuse power. Of course, I could be wrong and Dusedau is a terrible writer for this show, but that would remain on seeing when, or if he works on this show again.