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Synopsis:

It’s finally time for the Equestria Games. The Cutie Mark Crusaders get to carry the flag for Ponyville, Rainbow Dash’s team gets the silver in the Aerial Relay, and Princess Twilight Sparkle is a bit upset that she’s expected to sit in the “royalty box” instead of alongside the girls. As for Spike, the Crystal Empire praises him as a hero now for his contribution to the defeat of King Sombra and wants him to light the torch at the opening ceremonies. Unfortunately, Spike gets stage fright and chokes (literally), requiring Twilight to bail him out with a spell. On learning that, Spike tries to do something amazing for himself by singing the anthem for Ponyville at the Aerial Relay. But as Cloudsdale won the gold, he soon embarrasses himself as he doesn’t know the words to the song and confines himself to the hotel room the rest of the games. Twilight finally forces him to come out for the final competition, Ice Archery, and when one of the competitors accidentally freezes a cloud that threatens to cause injury on crashing into the stadium, Spike uses his fire breath to melt the cloud. Yet even though he did something “praiseworthy”, he still feels bad. Twilight suggests to him the only person who actually thinks of him as a failure is himself, and that he should look to improving his own self esteem. Spike decides to take that to heart and writes in the diary about it before setting off the fireworks for the closing ceremonies with his fire breath, not choking this time, and Ponyville takes home the highest medal count.

Review:

Well…it’s alright as Spike episodes go. But in terms of a “muddled moral”, this is by far the worst one yet. It has the feel of an episode where the background situation wasn’t good enough to be an episode on its own and so, instead, it acts as a wrapper around the actual plot. A lot of the concepts and bits with the Equestria Games are nice, and it’s good to see a lot of nods back to earlier parts of this season and even Season Three. But that said, Spike’s part of the story (which is really the bulk of the story) is a mess.

It never made much sense to begin with that Spike got praised for the incident with the Crystal Empire. As I mentioned in the Season Three opener, that victory was still mostly Twilight Sparkle’s and Princess Cadance’s. The only thing Spike did was carry the Crystal Heart about 100 feet and then dropped it. Not exactly the stuff of legend, even by “hobbit standards”. His real contribution in that situation was indirectly helping Twilight out long enough to get the heart. But even that is much better than his contribution this time. Cadance actually says the line that he “saved the Crystal Empire twice”…when the fact of the matter is he melted a cloud that would have injured a few ponies at best. Heroic, yes, but why do I get the feeling the script originally called for that cloud to be a heck of a lot bigger and then the director realized it wouldn’t work for Spike’s tiny flame to get rid of it?

As for the take-home message, it’s all over the place. It makes sense Spike would be embarrassed at first, but the fact of the matter is that if this was any other episode, he probably would have been a laughingstock after his flub of the Cloudsdale anthem and he did have a big reason to be embarrassed. It’s not until the last couple minutes that we really hit on the point that Spike’s depression seems to be purely internal. But even if that’s the case…what then?

There are a lot of morals that are pertinent to adults that just won’t work on a kid’s show and this is one of them. It looks like the issue is low self-esteem or depression. If so, it’s done weak at best. “Low self-esteem” has been a side-effect in numerous episodes as a result of a screw-up. It’s never been the major issue, especially since Spike has little reason to feel low self-esteem. So that makes it like depression, but depressed about what? It’s not like Spike is at that time of his life or anything. And was it even resolved? Spike agreed to do the fireworks but would he have refused to do them otherwise? I’m not even sure this episode has a lesson or moral to it.

Spike’s story is probably the worst part of this episode. Looking at the situation…noticing how Twilight is getting unhappy that she can’t sit with her friends due to her new status…the outcome of the Aerial Relay…the games themselves and the characters flooding this episode…heck, even Derpy just being there…all of it is more interesting and seems to even have more of a point than Spike’s story. Two Spike episodes in a row is highly unusual, but this one is just so messed up that it’s one of the more poorly constructed plots since “A Canterlot Wedding”.

It almost makes me think it was put in to give Spike more of a contribution to the end of the season, as he’s not going to play that much of a part in the finale…

Fun Facts:

The resolution to a plot that started all the way back in Season Three’s “Just for Sidekicks”. In terms of airing order, that was 28 episodes ago.

As noted in Season Three, the Equestria Games are clearly a takeoff of the Olympic Games. Interestingly enough, each city in Equestria seems to be represented along with a single non-pony race: griffons.

Almost every competitor for Ponyville is a pegasus, indicating the whole idea that pegasi are their best athletes naturally. However, the few non-pegasi are earth ponies. Part of that reason is that unicorns can’t use magic in events, but it appears unicorns are also naturally unathletic.

“Great and Honorable Spike, the Brave and Glorious”… He tripped trying to bring the Crystal Heart to Cadance, people!

Poor Derpy. The show creators can’t even let her give a “yay” going through the hoop because of the PC crowd… 😦

In the “royalty box”, we see a character we haven’t seen in a while: Prince Blueblood. There are also two who, based on their shapes, are from Saddle Arabia. There’s also one who looks “African” and one wearing a headdress resembling the shape of South American ancient empires, although the next episode reveals they’re actually from the same place.

“Equestria, we have a problem” is obviously a takeoff of “Houston, we have a problem”, the big tagline from “Apollo 13”.

Spike tries to use himself as a lighter, similar to an earlier episode where Applejack did the same.

The security guard of Sapphire Shores is now working stadium security. The disabling spell was apparently put in effect after the opening ceremonies. So…either someone tried to cheat the first day, or they found out Twilight lit the torch and that was somehow…wrong. On that note, since they obviously made Twilight, Celestia, Luna, and Cadance take the same spell, none of those four were trusted enough not to cheat. …Really?

When Spike finishes, um, “singing” the Cloudsdale anthem, Pinkie yells: “Nailed it!” Not helping, Pinkie.

Shazam! When Twilight goes to get Spike to watch the last event, it’s gone from night to day.

TWILIGHT: “I’ve totally let ponies down!” Um…no, no you haven’t. You really haven’t. Ever.

Spike pulls his umbrella apparently out of the same bag Deadpool gets all his stuff. 😛

TWILIGHT: “You saved the Crystal Empire…twice!” …Headdesk.

Rating:

2.5 Stars out of 5

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