As the official Friendship Ambassador of Equestria to the dragons, Spike is hosting a big event in Ponyville for Dragonlord Ember, who has been dealing with increasing divisiveness among the dragons and wants his advice with how to be better at friendship. Unfortunately, as he’s scrambling to make things perfect, he forgot that he invited King Thorax over on the same day to talk about problems he’s having with Changelings that are refusing to follow his leadership. Spike fears that since the two are so different (Ember being assertive, self-confident, and aggressive and Thorax being gentle, uncertain, and meek) they’ll hate each other and spur a Changeling/dragon war, so he ropes in Twilight Sparkle and Starlight Glimmer to help him keep them apart all day but, as a result, neglects both of them. Things are made worse when the Cutie Map activates again, this time summoning Spike to fix a friendship problem in Ponyville itself. Eventually his attempts to keep them apart while trying to find the friendship problem to solve break down and they learn how he was purposely trying to keep them apart, angering both of them (Ember because this shows how bad Spike thought she would be at friendship; Thorax because this shows how Spike doesn’t respect him any more than his own Changelings) and causing them to fly off. However, while away they meet up again, and end up helping each other with their own problems: Ember shows Thorax how to be a more assertive leader while Thorax convinces Ember that respecting the feelings of her own subjects will unite rather than divide them. Both of them confront Spike more formally about their complaints and, on seeing how the two helped each other, apologizes and says he should have realized they could have gotten along the whole time. This causes Spike’s scales to glow, and he rejoices that he fixed a friendship problem…although Starlight points out he himself was the one with the friendship problem. The episode closes with the three new friends having fun at the event together.
Oh, Spike, Spike, Spike… Whatever are we going to do with you and your ability to ruin the momentum of a season?
All things considered, this episode wasn’t too bad. There have been far worse Spike episodes. People are kind of ambivalent toward both Thorax and Ember, but I appreciate both of them.
As I said before, I like that Thorax is one of the few male regulars on the show. And while a lot of people don’t care for his “King Bugmoose” look, I appreciate a lot of the little animation details that go into him. I also kind of like what they did with him in Season Seven. It would have been one thing to simply say because Thorax was the “nice” Changeling that everything would be all sunshine and rainbows with him in charge. Yet MLP:FIM is more intelligent than that, and Season Seven illustrated that “being nice” isn’t the only element required for a good leader. His gentleness and timidity can be detriments at times. Does that mean he’s a poor leader? It means he’s better than Queen Chrysalis, but not necessarily the best possible leader. Unlike her, however, he can adapt and improve himself with time.
As for Ember, yeah…she’s probably the one solid tsundere on the show. 😛 And in occasional doses like this, I think that makes her an interesting character. The mere fact MLP:FIM has a tsundere is again a nod to the young adult audiences who, more exposed to anime, would appreciate that character quality. And I kind of appreciate her. She’s somewhat like a better version of the yaks. She can be too aggressive and mean at times, but she doesn’t degenerate into being a brute. She’s just simply someone who’s not into all that “touchy, feely stuff”.
Since those two dominate the bulk of this episode, they make up for a lot of it. And the two helping each other out with their respective problems is fitting and clever. The one thing I mark this episode down for is Spike, unfortunately. By this point, it’s become pretty obvious that Spike is eternally the Memetic Loser.
I mentioned Season Six had “The Paradox of Starlight Glimmer”. I think that one’s slowly fading as Starlight is very gradually shifting into a role of the rest of the Mane Six. Unfortunately, this episode brought “The Paradox of Spike” to a head for me. This one is far more prevalent and hasn’t changed since the show began:
“Spike can only fix a problem he started.”
“Owl’s Well That Ends Well”, “The Secret of My Excess”, “Just for Sidekicks”, “Inspiration Manifestation”, “Power Ponies”, “Princess Spike”…Spike caused the problem in all of those. He didn’t cause the problem directly in “The Times They Are a Changeling”, but he made it worse. “Gauntlet of Fire” he was pretty much the hero, but it doesn’t change the fact seven seasons in and Spike can’t highlight an episode without ruining everything. That’s the main reason he keeps dragging down episodes. The fact that they called it out here just made things worse.
On rewatching, this episode has enough fun to it to offset it a lot. Not as much as “Power Ponies”, but it does. Yet if you were hoping for an episode to break the normal kind of fare we get with Spike highlighting things, keep searching.
After the Eternal Flame singes some of Spike’s scales off, dusting himself off regenerates them. 😛
Being a giant bug, Thorax is attracted to bright lights like the Eternal Flame.
Last season, “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?” ran after “Slice of Life” and seemed to pick up on a few fandom quirks that had gotten missed. Something similar happens here. Ember can’t tell the difference between Twilight Sparkle and Starlight Glimmer, a notable joke about how Starlight Glimmer was thought to be “Twilight 2” in Season Six and meant to replace her.
I didn’t notice this in “Gauntlet of Fire”, but Ember’s pupils are actually more rounded than Spike’s.
Spike has no Cutie Mark for the Cutie Map. His scales simply glow.
Spike temporarily gains Pinkie Pie’s ability to pop up anywhere.
Ember’s “greeting” in Ponyville brings up memories of Luna in “Luna Eclipsed”.
Derpy’s poor muffin. 😦 At any rate, that’s one thing from “Slice of Life” that’s persisted.
Thorax’s long rambling includes details that came out again in “To Change a Changeling”.
From this episode, it appears that Changelings actually gain the physical attributes of whatever they change into. That’s…pretty useful.
As a nice little detail, Ember’s sneeze lights Thorax’s antlers on fire. He doesn’t seem to notice (or at least let her know he noticed), so Ember blows him out.
2.5 Stars out of 5