Smolder unexpectedly requests a week off from classes at the School of Friendship to go home to the Dragonlands and help her brother, who’s been struggling with her away from home. On hearing that he’s like him from Smolder, Spike decides to come along to help cheer him up on this “Kindness Field Trip”, while Fluttershy also elects to come along as a chaperone on hearing it’s time for Baby Dragon Hatching Season. However, on arriving at the Dragonlands, not only is Spike subjected to the same normal taunting from other dragons but he gets a shock when he discovers that Smolder’s brother is Garble. Meanwhile, Fluttershy goes to see Dragonlord Ember about the eggs, only to discover that none of them are hatching and they’re all periodically twitching. Both Spike and Fluttershy meet disaster with their respective partners, as Garble continuously keeps bullying Spike and rejecting his attempts to reach out to him, and Fluttershy’s attempts to hatch the eggs don’t seem to be doing any good. After meeting frustration, the two of them see the other one’s problems and switch. Spike, in short order, discovers that the eggs are failing to hatch due to the area being too cool; the end result of Garble’s friends accidentally draining the lava lake beneath the hatching grounds for lava surfing. Fluttershy, meanwhile, discovers that Garble is secretly a beat poet but won’t show it to any other dragons for fear of mockery. However, when he makes fun of Spike again, Fluttershy points out that Spike isn’t ashamed of who he is, unlike Garble, making him stronger than Garble in that regard. Ember ends up gathering the dragons to try and heat up the eggs with their flaming breath, but when that fails, Garble feels courageous enough after the talk with Fluttershy to start performing his beat poetry. The mocking laughter of the other dragons burns so hot that it hatches the eggs. Ember declares Garble a hero of the Dragonlands and, prompted by Smolder, declares that the dragon race will celebrate differences from now on rather than mock them. As Spike and Garble finally reconcile, both Ember and his friends line up to ask him to teach them about writing beat poetry.
In the course of the series of MLP:FIM, we’ve had to deal with two characters who were recurring bullies. One, of course, was Diamond Tiara, who inevitably had a resolution in “Crusaders of the Lost Mark” that gained a large amount of audience sympathy and had a satisfying payoff. In that case, it was revealed her behavior was largely due to pressure from an uncaring and domineering mother that she had to stand up to. By comparison, Garble is a different kind of bully that got his kicks like most dragons appear to in the MLP:FIM universe…by picking on things weaker than them to make themselves feel better about themselves. While the justification isn’t explored or made as “tender” as it was for Diamond Tiara, there is some justification for that. The dragon race is probably the one with the least favorable light in MLP:FIM; composed of a society which condemns all weakness and values only the ability to take from others for one’s own benefit. Feelings are rarely, if ever, respected and the only amount of credence or status one can achieve is by being either the strongest or the most victorious. In that light, er…you can’t really blame Garble for turning out the way he is or for being ashamed to show any weaknesses.
Part of the reason this “bully redemption” doesn’t hit quite so hard with me is the same complaint I had with Babs Seed, in that even when someone was making an attempt to outreach to them they decided they’d rather be a bully. Unlike in that episode, however, in which Babs chose the openly cruel Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon over the more considerate and empathetic Cutie Mark Crusaders, in this one it seems more clear, from Garble’s perspective, that he’d have “more to lose” by siding with Spike over his fellow dragons. What more, unlike in the episode with Babs Seed, blame is laid more squarely on the shoulders of the bully in this instance rather than in the victims needing to be more understanding. And the overall lesson for the episode, namely in what you should choose to be the true value of a person even if it differs from what peers might say is of worth, is a good one that everyone could stand to take to heart.
The opening of this episode also shows how far characters have come. On one hand, we have Fluttershy. The only creature she feared way back in the early seasons of the show was supposed to be dragons. Now she’s bold enough to go to the Dragonlands themselves and be surrounded by them for the sake of seeing baby dragons hatch. However, even though Smolder never gets an episode completely centered on her, we see how far she’s come in this one too. Whereas last season she relished telling a story about how dragons look for weaknesses and exploit them, by this point in the series she’s considerate of other dragons’ feelings (at least, when they’re family members) and isn’t afraid to show it at least to her teachers. She’s not afraid to ask for help either, and, as she says herself, she’s learned to celebrate differences rather than to find fault in them. Even if Smolder doesn’t get a true stand-alone episode for herself, I appreciate that even with only one season left to go they show how she’s managed to change.
So although Garble is not one of my favorite characters, there’s a lot to like in this episode. Sadly, a lot of the humor comes at Spike’s expense from the normal rounds of bullying he gets, but the backstory of Garble works out when you take the entire series into consideration. It’s a nice opportunity for character growth and a fitting way to wrap up the storyline between Spike and Garble.
One of the activities Spike suggests is singing “The Smile Song”…a throwback all the way to Pinkie’s infamous song from Season Two.
Ember accidentally calls Fluttershy “Appledash”, the traditional name for Applejack/Rainbow Dash shipping (which may have ironically come true…).
A small joke, but I love it when Ember flushes red on Fluttershy asking her if all of the eggs are hers.
At this point, it’s a rolling gag that Spike always greets Ember with a hug…much to her displeasure.
3.5 Stars out of 5