Following the events of “Shadow Play”, Rockhoof has returned to his old town to help in excavation efforts. However, his overpowered mannerisms and antiquated thinking ruin the preservation efforts of the historical artifacts, and so Professor Fossil sends him to Twilight Sparkle to try and find a place for him at the School of Friendship. Twilight tries him out as a professor but, in spite of enthusing the students with his tales of old Equestria, again his strength and out-of-date rationale end up wrecking a good portion of the school. The Mane Six end up trying a variety of different tasks with Rockhoof as well as meeting up with the rest of the Pillars of Old Equestria in an attempt to find a place for him in the modern era, but not only do all efforts end in failure but the fact that the rest of the Pillars have easily adapted and succeeded in modern times make him more depressed than ever. In the end, he grows bitter toward Twilight for returning him from limbo and asks her to turn him into stone so he can at least be remembered as a hero rather than as a failure. Unable to think of anything else, Twilight ends up agreeing to do so temporarily until she can find a new position for him, but on learning the news Yona, who has grown an affection for Rockhoof, runs up to him and reads the flattering essay she wrote for her class assignment about him; seeing him as the first pony who’s truly like a yak and concluding saying she wants to be like him when she grows up (even getting a small spade for her own “warshovel”). To say thanks for the essay, Rockhoof agrees to finish an earlier story he had about fighting an Ursa Major with both her, the rest of the students, and many of the Mane Six. Twilight approaches just as he finishes, much to the enthusiasm of his audience, and ends up proposing that he become Equestria’s official “Keeper of Tales”; noting that his stories of the past can inspire the next generation. Rockhoof is still reluctant, until Yona points out that he’s her friend, and that’s reason enough to need to stay around in the modern era. Finally feeling happier about being in the modern age, Rockhoof immediately begins to relate a new story “about a small yak who knew more than a great hero”.
Ok, it may not be “The Perfect Pear”, but this is a really sweet episode. This is the episode that finally landed me into liking Yona and, combined with “The Best Gift Ever”, made me finally appreciate the yak race on the show as a whole.
Following the end of Season Seven as well as the end of the “Legends of Magic” IDW series, the Pillars of Old Equestria found themselves in much the same situation as Rockhoof in this episode: having no reason to be on the show any longer. To be honest, I feel like the ultimate resignation that the characters, as a whole, ended up being another “Flash Sentry” was the fact that almost all of them ended up just easily inserting themselves into the modern era, with only Rockhoof left being the odd man out. Nevertheless, by focusing only on one pony, the end result allowed the episode to focus more on him, which was a good move.
In terms of drama, this is one of the better episodes of the series. While the situation is highly unusual, it’s also relatable. Most people have likely been in at least one situation in their life where they felt they didn’t fit in, and as a result can make the extension to what it would feel like to be in a world where everything was different from what you remember.
Yet what this episode managed to touch on that otherwise would have been too “heavy” a topic using a character from the modern era was the concepts of emotionally depression and feelings of self-worth. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are in life: everyone wants to feel they have some value. Something to offer the world. That their existence actually brings something to others. To not have that feeling leads to pretty much what this episode implied Rockhoof wanted done to him. One might be a little upset at him for lashing out at Twilight but…it’s understandable, especially given his feelings. It’s just like he said…he’d rather have died a hero than lived out the rest of his life in a world as a failure.
And, of course, Yona is very sweet in this episode. It was at this point in the series that I fully began to understand and appreciate that any arrogance, pride, or even brutishness that Yona (and yaks as a whole) gave off is due to her race’s culture and demeanor…that there really was a kind and innocent individual the gruff and aggressive exterior.
I do fault this episode a bit on not making better use of the rest of the Pillars of Old Equestria, but I’d rather they do one well than five poorly. My only other beef is that the final message of the episode didn’t really come through in the plot too well. It ended up being summed up in a line by Yona at the end. That’s too bad, because it’s something of a variation on the moral of “It’s a Wonderful Life”: “no man is a failure who has friends”. But as it managed to tell that moral without resorting to using the normal “Capra-esque” plot of a what-if story, that gives it a bit more acclaim to me.
All in all, I think one of the better episodes of Season Eight.
The title is a takeoff of the saying “stuck between a rock and a hard place”; which refers to being a situation in which one must choose between two decisions that are equally bad.
Rockhoof’s “Theory and Defense of Friendship” class might be a knockoff of Hogwarts’ “Defense Against the Dark Arts” class.
Smolder’s crest scales slump when wet. 😛
Cranky’s old toupee is back. 😀
Following Season Six’s “No Second Prances”, this might be another episode that dealt with the idea of suicide.
Yet another episode that rams home the idea that the IDW version of the Pillars of Old Equestria are different from the show’s, which is a pity because I honestly felt the comic’s were better. Somnambula is pretty much the opposite of how she acts in the comic; taking on not only a sagacious role but a very quiet and reserved one. As for Stygian, who is actually closer to Rockhoof than any other of the Pillars in the comic, he never even makes an appearance.
Twilight’s classroom has a “periodic table”. I suppose it could be of the Elements of Harmony, but…there are only six of those…
Rockhoof may have one of the show’s only fecal-related humor jokes when he’s pondering which position he takes as a statue would leave the birds the least room to take a dump on him.
4 Stars out of 5