We’re back with another episode of Syndication is Magic! After reaching the 100th episode milestone last week (seriously; if this show is huge on a no name channel, imagine how big it’ll be if Cartoon Network picked it up!?) we seem to be heading back into business as usual for the season. While we have gotten some highlights like the season premiere and the 100th episode, things haven’t been as good as they should be for the series what with a bunch of filler episodes and unrealized potential. Not only does that have this episode going against it, but it’s another Spike episode which tend to be a mixed bag for me. Still, the last time he was the focus of the story was the very good Equestria Games, so maybe the writers have figured out how to write this character well and we’ll get another solid episode this time around. Let’s find out!!
The episode begins in Canterlot where the four princesses are holding a summit for the entirety of Equestria. I guess that means everyone’s going to put on a good show of peace, get a bunch of photo-ops, eat lots of fancy food, and accomplish absolutely nothing.
Spike is there as well but feels left out because he’s not as worshipped as the demigods he’s sharing a stage with, which I don’t even think is TRUE considering how much the Crystal Kingdom loves Spike. Shouldn’t there be a couple of them in the back cheering for him and paying tributes? Still, the idea of holding a summit seems like a perfect way to expand the world of Equestria and see the various representatives working together and interacting! No wait, we need to focus on everything else EXCEPT the interesting stuff. I guess this IS going to be just another Spike episode.
Spike’s job this time around (thrust upon him by Cadence) is to keep anyone from disturbing Twilight who’s gone a bit loopy considering how many nights she’s been up preparing this conference.
So yeah, instead of watching various cultures across this magical land intermingle and hash out their differences, we watch Spike… not do that. We’ve seen the Don’t Wake the Sleeper trope before to great success (one of the best Daffy Duck cartoons is A Pest in the House), but here it feels a bit anemic especially when you consider that much more interesting things are going on in the castle. They try to make it work, what with Spike desperately running from place to place in order to make everything as quiet as possible, but it falls flat because we don’t buy that the noise he’s stopping is going to wake up Twilight (who’s sleeping in the tallest damn tower of the kingdom) and the fact that the noise Spike is stopping is in no way malicious in nature. After silencing a bird, whose only crime was… being a bird, he runs into the middle of a polo match and stops it altogether due to the cheering being too loud.
You can see Spike’s point I guess, but there’s no satisfaction to watching him tell two teams and their fans to piss off somewhere else. It’s even worse when he finds some government workers trying to trim dangerously heavy trees and fixing vital infrastructure and tells them they need to stop what they’re doing (which I’m SURE won’t come back to bite them in the ass). I guess I can’t buy that the ends justify the means in this case so it’s not very enjoyable to watch. At least things pick up a bit when all the noise issues have been resolved and Spike instead has to deal with ponies demanding to see the princess to complain.
See, THIS is much more interesting. Not only can I relate to this having worked in customer service (I HAVE BEEN SLIGHTLY INCOVIENENCED AND DESERVE COMPENSATION FOR THIS HORRIFIC INJUSTICE!!!) but it also puts Spike in a legitimately tough spot. These two delegates are arguing about a hall that was accidently double booked and need an answer from someone who can’t give them one. Out of desperation, Spike just makes up a solution (sharing is magic!) and claims it to be a direct order from the Princess. Because it comes from the Queen of the Books herself, the delegates accept the compromise and Spike pats himself on the back for being such a genius. Unfortunately, the decision turns out to be disastrous and even MORE delegates come to her room to deal with the fallout.
Realizing that he has the power of the monarchy behind his words, Spike starts dealing out Solomon like arbitrations as if they were from Twilight herself. Despite a shaky start with the meeting hall decision, he actually seems to be doing a bang up job helping out all the ponies that come to him. Even Doctor Steve Brule, who shows up for no discernible reason, gets the help he needs!
That’s another thing I really like about this episode. It’s filled with lots of unique ponies with designs other than the standard template we see with most background or side characters. I’m sure most of them are references that are just flying over my head (I’ve only been able to spot Steve Brule and Marge Gunderson) but even if they aren’t, I’m still very happy with the variety on display here.
After a long afternoon of living the Judge Judy life, there’s finally no one around who’s coming to Twilight for help. Not only that, but an angry mob hasn’t stormed the bedroom so I guess Spike did a good job as Twilight’s mouthpiece! In fact, he’s so confident in his decision making skills that he’s decided to take all the meetings that Twilight has that afternoon to further prove to everyone how great he is at her job. Wait a minute, why does she still have meetings scheduled? You’re telling me that Cadence hadn’t informed everyone that the Princess of Friendship isn’t going to be available for a while? I can understand people walking up to the room and demanding to see her (emergencies coupled with egos), but who the hell is going to go to a meeting where the key figure will definitely be a no show? Either way, the ponies DO show up for their meetings with the princess and so Spike shows up to make sure things get done.
Clearly this can’t be a good thing for some reason, so after a meeting with one of the construction ponies (reaffirming that the cracked water main can’t be fixed until after Twilight wakes up), Princess Cadence starts to be all judgmental towards Spike for actually enjoying his temporary assignment. She hardly seems to be in a position to do so though considering she gave Spike the assignment of keeping Twilight asleep, didn’t move her meetings or assign someone else to her duties, and the fact that Spike is batting at about seventy-five percent which is better than you can say for most politicians.
All I’m saying is that despite the VERY obvious mistakes he made early on (when he wasn’t even trying to speak for Twilight and was just trying to keep things quiet), he’s done a pretty good job so far in keeping things running. The show must have realized this because IMMEDIATELY after Cadence leaves without stripping him of his duties (which I take as a tacit endorsement of his actions), he immediately starts to abuse his power. I’m still not buying it. This was a very weak attempt to show he’s becoming an egomaniacal jerk because all it is a shockingly brief (I timed it at twenty-two seconds) montage of him just getting random perks like massages, baked good, and a painting of himself.
Dude, the IOC asks for that just for them to show up and tell you they WON’T be giving your country the Olympics. If this is the worst a corrupt political figure can come up with, then I think Equestria’s monarchy is doing just fine. We aren’t reaching Caligula levels of excess just yet.
So in less than thirty seconds of screen time, Cadence comes back once again to chastise Spike for his behavior. He tries to defend his actions as possibly excessive but still for the greater good of the summit when fate decides to intervene and all of his decision (that once gain were made BEFORE he starting speaking for Twilight) domino into a huge problem. Not only does this lead to the water main bursting open but it also ends up directing the water right into the castle’s main hall where the final celebration is to be held later that night. Cadence springs into action to fix the water main but the damage is already done. Wait a minute, what did Cadence just do?
So she could have patched up that water main (silently I might add) at ANY point today, but didn’t!? So there was a THIRD option other than to keep Twilight sleeping or fix the water main as nosily as possible!? I’m not defending Spike’s terrible decision to leave a damaged water main unrepaired, but it seems like everyone was asleep at the wheel at this summit which almost guaranteed a disaster like this would almost certainly occur. The fallout for this lands squarely on Twilight’s shoulders and an angry mob forms to storm her bedroom. Spike manages to get in fast enough to lock everyone else out and does what any good politician would when they find themselves in hot water.
Despite his valiant efforts at fleeing the country, Spike ends up having to fess up to Twilight what he’s done and apologize to the rest of the delegation. He then starts to try and repair one of the exhibits of the summit which was a statue made up of gemstones from each of the cities that are attending. This spurs everyone else to help him out, putting their own gemstone in their proper place, and proving that they can all accomplish great things as long as they work together. I like to think that Spike is just politically savvy enough to know that this will calm everyone down, but it’s still a nice moment if he was being completely sincere. It looks like everything’s going to be okay now that this crisis has been averted, and Spike has learned a valuable lesson about… something or other. Oh wait, Spike is about to sneeze and knock down the status again!!
The thing about this episode is that there are so many ways they could have taken it where it would have been really interesting, but instead they just rehash the same Spike story we’ve seen before. We’re at a summit where various ponies from various cultures are communicating and hashing out their differences, but we don’t get to see any of that. While I would have liked for the episode to focus on that, it’s okay if they focus on those keeping it afloat instead. Movies like Taking Woodstock and even the first part of Jurassic World prove that watching people MAKE things work can be just as interesting as whatever it is they’re holding together. The problem is that the episode barely focuses on that and instead about Spike alternatively rehashing old Looney Tunes cartoons and learning a lesson about humility. Okay, that could work as well. After all, Spike has been in this series since the beginning, but still hasn’t had a chance to prove himself as an important person besides being Twilight’s dragon friend. No wait, the episode decides to focus on his faults than his accomplishments. So what the episode ultimately does is ignore an interesting event so that Spike can prove once again that he’s no good at anything. I’ve never been a fan of Spike episodes mostly because they tend to focus on the same story each time. Why can’t Spike find out he’s good at something? Why does he always have to be back at square one by the time he’s learned his lesson? The only really good version of this story was The Equestria Games which is another huge event that we ignore in favor of watching Spike fumble. The reason why that one works (aside from it actually showing the games on occasion) is that the lesson was much more nuanced about forgiving oneself for past mistakes. I’m hoping that the show decides to actually do something with him at some point because everyone else has grown around him while he’s stayed the same. Spike SHOULD be making the kind of decisions he made in this episode. Sure he may need a bit more training, but there’s no reason he can’t be dealing with the kind of minutia that Twilght CLEARLY can’t be handling all the time now that she’s a princess (the episode premise is that she over-exerted herself). I can’t say that this was a great episode, but I did enjoy it for reasons that they probably didn’t intended me to. Spike needs a chance to show what he can bring to that table now that he’s no longer the assistant of a student or co-running a library, and I really hope the writers give him an opportunity soon.
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