Please keep in mind the follow is just my personal opinion. Not trying to argue or put down other perspectives.
After watching No Second Prances…
There’s little else to say other than the target demographic has changed. As I’ve mentioned previously the show’s ostensible premise was a children’s cartoon teaching basic manners, but I found that it featured an anomalous amount of intelligent wit in the writing and animation to make me a dedicated fan. The jokes were usually pretty subtle and often related to multiple levels of the human experience, so for me there’s always something to think about and appreciate when I re-watch an episode, some new angle on the jokes. When there was a focus on story, the characters generally acted realistically enough to get me invested in the story, to be interested in character developments, etc. The writers were meeting their obvious obligations but leaving the doors wide open for people with my sense of humor to sit down and enjoy. No Second Prances, in line with the other episodes of season 6, presents almost everything in its humor and story at face value; nothing deeper to think about, what you see is what you get. Jokes rely more on animation and voice intonation, things that are immediately and thoughtlessly apparent. They’ve also introduced a thick layer of self-awareness to the show which makes everyone seem less concerned about what’s actually going on and more concerned about nailing the writer’s already obvious jokes home. If this didn’t shred the show’s fantastic characterization built up over the course of over a hundred episodes I would be indifferent, but as it is everyone acts like they’re in some completely inconsequential middle-school social drama. I almost didn’t finish the episode; I couldn’t stand it when they brought in beloved established characters because every single time they would make them act completely out of character. Previously the show excelled at subtle variations in solidly established characters; now it seems to be hastily deconstructing any compelling personality traits it had so excellently crafted, trading them in for cheap spectacle gags. Since when were Princess Celestia and Mrs. Cake impatient and sassy? Why was Fluttershy afraid of the manticore when that was exactly what she wasn’t afraid of in the series premier? Why was Twilight suddenly so incompetent at basic leadership tasks? Why did they do a full 180 on the surprisingly realistic and moving characterization of Big Mac at the end of Brotherhooves Social? Why was Starlight Glimmer, established as somewhat psychopathic, so distraught when she lost Trixie as a friend after a day? I could keep going, but really, nearly everything in that episode was significantly out of sync with the established form. As far as I can tell they’re remaking the show to appeal to the internet meme demographic, replacing their earlier work with exaggerated snippets of shallow behavior, severed from any realistic context. The thing about internet memes and the culture around them is that they’re largely removed from actual social functionality and thus tend not to represent or relate to actual behavior; as a result the jokes made don’t draw from observational humor so much as pretend humor, and previously established characterization is made FUBAR. To me, almost everything in No Second Prances felt sloppily contrived, uncomfortably unnatural and utterly uninteresting… compared to all the other seasons. Compared to the rest of season 6 and so much of the other material floating around on the internet, it fits right in.
Fortunately these new episodes have had minimal impact on my enjoyment of the rest of the series. There’s such a disconnect between them that it’s hard to recognize them as the same show.