>it portrays her as a fucking spastic instead of a levelheaded, somewhat sarcastic mare we all know her to be on every other episode of Seasons 1 and 2.
Twilight goes insane whenever the possibility of disappointing Celestia arises, and "Lesson Zero" was not the first instance where that personality trait was presented. "A Bird in the Hoof" was primarily about Twilight losing her shit after Fluttershy took Philomena, and "Swarm of the Century" ended with another town-destroying Twilight melt-down. Manic instability in regard to Celestia is a central aspect of Twilight's character, and it has been since her conception.
>"Dragon Quest" being an allegory for older people not liking little girls' toys
It was about toxic masculinity and teenage rebellion, which is largely why it sucked. Relatively and in the context of Season 2, that is.
>Was the plot that bad?
It was pretty damn bad.
>As for "A Canterlot Wedding", I'm not actually sure I remember correctly how it was regarded upon release.
It was--and probably still is--the most divisive episode of all time. At the time, it spilt the audience into two camps. A lot of folks absolutely loved it for the songs, the elaborate setting, the occasionally funny sequence where the changeling queen inspects the wedding preparations, Twilight unabashadly shaking her ass in Cadence's face, and the fun and unique design of the changelings. Then you have the contrary opinion. The contrary opinion is that "A Canterlot Wedding" was Fonze jumping the shark. It was the penny on the rainroad tracks that derailed the Friendship Express. It was the beginning of the catastropic modus operandi that would define subsequent seasons where all new elements presented on the show would simply be dumped on top of the narrative like so much refuse and never be given any purpose regardless of how much it breaks the established canon. Cadance and Shining Armor had absolutely no narrative reason to exist, and it was painfully obvious that their only purpose was to sell toys. Also, as cool as the changelings were, their evil scheme was complete nonsense (literally bugs on a windshield), and their defeat was a hand-wave with a magical deus ex machina, which leads right into the main topic of discussion--Equestrian magic is nonsensical.
>Maybe hate's died down for that episode on recent years
Other way around, I would say. It was much more popular when it first aired than it is now.
>Also, disliking Lesson Zero is a hot take? That's quite a shock to me. I thought others disliked it at least somewhat.
Hell no! Lesson Zero was a smash hit. I remember when it first aired, everyone was just excited for "Luna Eclipsed" to air and thought that "Lesson Zero," based on the description that was published, was going to just be some boring filler. Then Fluttershy snapped a bear's neck, and jaws hit the floor. It shocked the living piss out of us, because its tone was so wildly different from Season 1, and we were rolling by the time Twilight started going all Gollum in a puddle. It was far and away the funniest episode that had aired to that point, and the meme material just piled up by the time it was over. The best thing about it was that, despite the wild change in tone, it didn't actually break anything. Twilight losing her shit over Celestia was nothing new, Rarity wildly overreacting to every little thing was somewhat established, and Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash were not actually doing anything destructive. The only thing that changed significantly was that the season's story arc was established where all of the other little horse women started writing friendship lessons to Celestia, which was a welcome change.
>If such a thing is true, could someone be determining every single event in the world happening at this very moment from a higher dimension than our's? Is our world simply a set of narratives, predetermined on what we'll do and say?
That is getting into some Schroedinger's Box shit, and it fundamentally forms the basis of idealist philosophy.
Time for go to work.