I'm going to sound super cynical in this review, so be prepared. This is the first episode Josh Haber, and it shows. Because other than the in character nature of them, and a few world building parts, I personally didn't care for this episode. In fact, whether you agree or not, I think this is one of the most boring episodes in FIM to date.
Okay, let's start with the good. The characters are for the most part, in character, and they did try to add some world building to it. The characters themselves interacted well enough with each other and complimented their goals. But to me, that's where the fun ends, because the rest of the episode was an uninspired mash of I've seen this before, and while that's not always bad, it's not really good when I'm fighting to keep myself awake watching it. The humor to me was stale and it felt reaching at times. There were a few funny moments, but they were too far and in between that when I actually got to those moments, the laughter that I could have had was already drained. They basically ran around like chickens with their heads cut off the entire episode, with the exception of Twilight, who I didn't mind being collected for the episode.
I also didn't like the forced moral at the end. It was so reaching that it felt like Josh saw all of season one and was like "hey, I should try to emulate the worst aspects of the show". And that's what this episode felt like to me: an attempt to try to hit nostalgia buttons, right down to the Applejack "ooooh thing". The ending itself was predictable. Who didn't see Pinkie coming. But to be honest, this and the season premiere are at least less predictable than the series premiere. At least they didn't outright say in the beginning who the villian was. But despite that, they brought back the friendship letters by way of the journal. I can't stand half of the friendship letters, and now they're pushing journal/diary entries? Those were to me the weakest aspects of the show, as they tended to have the moral pushed in at the last second to wrap the strory up because of E/I. I thought we were rid of that pesky thing!
Other than the continuity and the forshadowing of the shadow pony, this episode offered very little, only giving stale laughs from existing, tired concepts, like a freakin' haunted house! However, I can be slightly forgiving since this is Josh's first. He's definately not as bad as Merriwhehter, nowhere near it in fact, but he hasn't won me over like Powell has. This episode was okay, but it was so okay it's wasn't worth going back a third time. Yes, I watched this twice (leak and official) to make sure I wasn't just in a bad mood, and the results are the same. Boring, familiar, and for the most part, kinda lazy. But it's more forgivable since Josh is new. Just gotta do better next time.