Spike is sore that he has a rather large “stonescale” (the dragon equivalent of a pimple) and tries to sleep it off only to wake up the next morning and discover he’s had a major breakout. Not only that, but soon he’s giving off massive fire burps that threaten to incinerate his room in the Castle of Friendship, prompting Twilight Sparkle to tell him to step out for the day. His symptoms only get worse as his volume also randomly oscillates between whispering and screaming, and he begins to emit a putrid stench as well. Seeing all of this, Smolder approaches him and explains he’s going through a normal dragon molt, a part of their normal life cycle, but that it’s traditional in the Dragonlands to evict a dragon who goes through this out of home, especially since the stench they emit attracts the most violent and dragon-eating beasts in the world. Fearing that he’ll be forced to leave home by his friends, Spike goes to Zecora for help in treating his symptoms, but is forced to sneak out when Rarity also shows up looking for a cure for stopped ears. Unfortunately, no sooner does he sneak away when his stench attracts a Roc, who grabs both Zecora and Rarity while trying to grab him. Twilight arrives soon after looking for him and, on learning the situation, tries to effect a rescue. While struggling with the Roc, Spike completes his molt and is stunned to discover not only his symptoms disappearing but that he’s finally grown wings. Putting them to good use, he uses both them and his increased dragonfire to assist Twilight in saving Rarity and Zecora and driving off the Roc, but still feels he has to leave both due to dragon tradition and his fear that future development cycles will endanger his friends. Twilight assures him that they won’t drive him away for getting older and that they’ll face any future difficulties together. Rarity ends the episode by putting Spike’s new wings to “good” use: having him act as whatever length dress mannequin Rarity needs.
Even ignoring the fact this ended up being a milestone, what’s not to like about this episode?
It’s one of the rare occurrences on the show…a good Spike-themed episode. True, if you want to get technical, it suffers from the same Spike Paradox as most of the others (Spike can only fix a problem he himself starts), but as the problem is something natural Spike went through and didn’t have a choice in it’s not that bad. And unlike most Spike episodes, the problems that Spike had to confront weren’t “self-inflicted” but things beyond his control and, for the most part, perfectly reasonable fears. (About the only exception was Spike fearing that Twilight would kick him out.) Very interesting that a show that has a demographic mostly toward girls and who has most of its cast being female would pick one of its male characters to tackle the subject of puberty.
That aside, all the rest of the cast is spot-on. Twilight’s great, Zecora gets a large featuring role, Rarity is good and they manage to work her condition into the episode to avoid plot holes, and even Pinkie Pie’s two lines are great.
Of course, the other big standout character in this episode is Smolder. Now that a “true” dragon is attending the School of Friendship, the writers finally have a way to explain natural life cycles of dragons or dragon traditions without having to worry about Spike stumbling across them. However, what’s even nicer about Smolder in this episode is the fact that, as of writing this, I just recently finished watching Season Nine’s “Sweet and Smoky”, and I noticed something.
About the one thing that seemed to be “defective” about the Student Six when they came on the scene is that they already seemed to be “naturals at friendship”. After all, they hit it off with each other even when the Mane Six were teaching the bad lessons that they all hated. It somewhat implied that they didn’t really need to be taught at all. Looking back on this episode in the light of “Sweet and Smoky”, however, I can see they still had room for improvement. In this one, Smolder might not be a bully to Spike but in both this episode and others she seems to lack empathy and doesn’t really think much of him other than he happens to be another dragon in her area. However, as later episodes will show, as Smolder grudgingly reveals her own side that has an affinity toward more “fancy, girly things”, she actually warms up more to Spike. I don’t want to touch on this too much because it will come out more in “Sweet and Smoky”, but suffice to say episodes like this really show how much her own character has grown.
Aside from that, this episode finally addressed one of the biggest questions of the entire series: why is Spike the only dragon without wings? Now he’s finally got them, and he got a nice episode to highlight them in.
I never really thought puberty would be a terribly interesting topic to cover, but with growth of characters, humor, drama, and an honestly heartfelt moment at the end? One of the better episodes in the series all the way.
Finally addresses the elephant in the room that’s been there since the first season: why doesn’t Spike have wings? It also gives the backstory of Peewee, the briefly-lived pet of Spike from way back in Season Two’s “Dragon Quest”, and who was conveniently written out of the plot via photographs in Season Three’s “Just for Sidekicks”. This episode also clears up misconceptions about how dragons age that was introduced in Season Two’s “Secret of My Excess”, which turns out to be, as Smolder put it, simply a case of “Greed-Induced Bigness” rather than getting older. Ironically, both episodes feature Rarity getting captured by a giant monster (a fact she calls out in the episode).
RARITY: “Don’t get the shampoo.” A callback to “It isn’t the Mane Thing About You” from Season Seven. Come on, Rarity. We want more Raripunk.
Spike tries to pop a stonescale. Ew…don’t think the ratings will let you, little dude.
On a side note, um…er…this is the first episode where I realized Smolder was a girl. And then only because I looked up the synopsis and saw her referred to as “she”. :I
Smolder first refers to her brother, who wouldn’t be revealed until Season Nine.
Rocs come from Middle Eastern mythology, including being featured in the Arabian Nights. The one thing their descriptions have in common is that they are monstrous birds of prey of impossibly colossal size.
Dragon BO apparently smells like brussel sprouts covered in cotton candy. That doesn’t sound all that bad…but I don’t think Y ratings allow you to make really rancid analogies.
Spike’s demand, “Let my ponies go!”, is likely a knockoff of Moses from the Old Testament relating God’s infamous words to the Pharaoh of Egypt: “Let my people go”.
I love how everyone who comes along is so completely clueless about the extremely gigantic bird big enough to rip out entire trees circling overhead. 😛
Spike’s transformation is more akin to a chrysalis than a molt, although both involve shedding the entire outer layer of skin.
4 Stars out of 5