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Synopsis:

A flying lesson for Spike with Twilight Sparkle goes south, causing Smolder to step in and correct him for learning in a “pony” fashion, which causes Twilight to begin to feel she might have let Spike down raising him as a pony rather than as a dragon. As Spike gives Smolder an (unwanted) throw pillow as a thank-you present, an adult dragon (Sludge) crash lands in Ponyville. In spite of him protesting that it’s not how dragons get better, the Mane Six and Spike insist on nursing him back to health while showing off the comforts of Ponyville and the Castle of Friendship. When he finally recovers and begins to leave, Twilight and Spike end up mentioning Spike being raised by ponies and fearing he’s missing something in his upbringing. Sludge, on hearing that, says that the reason he came to Ponyville was because he is, in fact, Spike’s father and he wanted to reunite with him. Overjoyed at meeting one of his missing parents, Spike overlooks the holes in Sludge’s story and tries to connect with him. After doing several activities together, however, Sludge changes his tune to try to “help Spike be a real dragon” by telling him to give all of the castle comforts to him so he can show him how a “real” dragon would react to them, and in turn is soon exploiting Spike to not-so-secretly wait on him hand and foot while he lazes about the castle. Seeing him being used, Twilight tries to bring it up, only for Spike to lash back that she’s just upset because he has his “real” parent and he’s a dragon rather than a pony; causing Twilight to break into tears. Smolder, however, learns about what’s been going on with Spike and sets the record straight–exposing that Sludge isn’t acting like a dragon at all but is exploiting him. With her help, the two confront Sludge and catch him in his lie and, on being found out, he reveals he wasn’t Spike’s father at all but lied in order to try and get the comfortable lifestyle of Ponyville. Spike apologizes and reconciles with Twilight, and when she offers to give him more time to search the Dragonlands for his real parents, he responds he already knows who his real family is.

Review:

Oh boy, did Season Eight have some stinkers among the fan community. First “Non-Compete Clause”, then “Yakity-Sax”, and now this. However, this was the best received of the three and I can see why.

Really I don’t see anything outstandingly bad about it except, perhaps, a touch of cluelessness on the part of the ponies and Spike. However, that fits well with the episode. Part of it was pointing out the legitimate differences between pony lifestyles and dragons, and part of that lifestyle is ponies are willing to go with the “benefit of the doubt” more easily.

It does have something I don’t think it really took the time to get into and develop, instead focusing more on scenes with Sludge and the various characters. It wasn’t until the second viewing I really got the chance to find out that a big part of it was supposed to be Twilight’s parental role with Spike. That, in and of itself, is confusing when viewing the series as a whole. Spike’s relation to Twilight has never been totally encompassed and nailed down. In many episodes he seems like just an assistant, sidekick, or even a servant in spite of the fact it’s canon that Twilight raised him. In “Dragon Quest” we deal with Spike’s existential thoughts about what it means for him to be a dragon in a nation of ponies, but that was Spike’s identity rather than his relation to others. And while Spike and Twilight’s relationship has been touched on in several other episodes, often it always seems from the perspective as somehow Spike is the “subordinate” to Twilight; whether it be as an assistant, servant, or even almost a pet.

About the only time where Spike seems to be part of Twilight’s “family” is in the holiday episodes, and even then it isn’t emphasized too strongly. This is the first one where we really get the sense of Twilight viewing herself as a parent, and it’s too bad because, if the episode had focused more on that, long enough for the audience to digest that idea, it would have had a greater impact. Instead, there’s the rather cartoon-y scene where an X-ray of Twilight shows her heart breaking. Not only does that spell out the moment of argument with Spike, but it also “dumbs it down” and makes it a joke. That’s probably the worst part to me.

However, I do like that they reconcile at the end, and on the second viewing it is a cute and sweet moment.

The other part I like is, again, Smolder standing out as her own character apart from the Mane Six, even if it caused me to complain again. I actually think it’s a good move to pair Smolder up more with Spike. Not only does it logically make sense, with the “pony-raised” dragon learning from the one dragon migrant living in Equestria, but it makes a little more sense and comes easier than Spike pairing with Ember. Furthermore, both are kind of learning from each other. While Smolder still seems to have something of a dismissive view of Spike in this episode and is thoughtless about things she says around him, the fact she was willing to even help him confront Sludge shows, once again, she does care even if she doesn’t like to talk about it. She even makes a weak attempt at being understanding at the end.

My biggest beef in the original episode was when Smolder flatly states to Sludge that it’s not in dragon nature to exploit weaknesses. Uh…yes it is. Smolder herself seemed to endorse that view explicitly in “The Hearth’s Warming Club”. However, on rewatching and seeing Smolder evolve, I kind of overlook it. When people begin to become disenchanted with a view they formerly espoused, it’s understandable that they would start misusing the “Real Scotsman” argument. Sludge might be right about it being dragon nature to exploit the weakness and compassion of others, but…that’s something that Smolder might not be feeling good about anymore to the point where she doesn’t think a real dragon should practice it. So I’ll go easy on that.

So really, in terms of content and relationships, there’s nothing too bad. I think what drags this episode down is Sludge. He gets a very large amount of screen time, and not only is much of it him lazing around but a lot is also the sounds of him stuffing his face with everything in sight. I understand that was kind of the point but he is, by design, an unappealing and dirty character and so having to have him around kind of gives this episode a likewise dirty feeling to it.

Nevertheless, while it may not have been the best episode of this season, I didn’t find it too bad.

Fun Facts:

This is me personally, but the intro (or “teaser”) feels like it could have been one of the Youtube series shorts.

Seems like the series fully forgot about how big adult dragons were in the first two seasons by now. 😛

Anyone else think it’s kind of funny that Rainbow Dash relies on fake snow when she could, in fact, make it snow if she wanted?

A return of Spike’s (somewhat-creepy-when-you-think-about-it) Rarity doll.

Poor Starlight…cameoing only to be thrown out along with the bathtub.

Twilight walking in on Sludge “exposed” is a parody of a scene from “The Graduate” with Dustin Hoffman’s characters and “Mrs. Robinson”.

Assuming Smolder is telling the truth (which seems to be accurate from the interactions with Torch and Ember), dragons seem to at least care about their children.

Rating:

2.5 Stars out of 5