My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Hasbro.
Episode directed by Denny Lu and Tim Stuby
We’re back with another episode of Let’s See What Spike Does with Too Much Power, as seems to be the premise of most episodes that involve him. That doesn’t change here as this episode is all about Spike and the Dragon Kingdom; the latter of which we haven’t really seen since Dragon Quest from season two. Will this be another episode that shows how great of a character Spike can be while also showing us new and interesting details about the dragons in this world, or will this just be another episode that pokes fun at Spike’s incompetence while also not doing much with the other dragons? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Spike doing what he does best; menial tasks for Rarity to maintain his firm placement in the Friend Zone. Right now, he’s filling the role of a pack mule while Rarity harvests her own crystals out of a cave somewhere. Props to her for going that far to get good jewels, though you’d think there’d be someone else who would get paid to do this. Her business is successful enough to have three locations, yet she has the time to go mine her own resources?
It’s also dangerous that they decided to go on this alone in case something bad was to inexplicably happen (another reason why an outside party would be the preferable option). Oh look. Something bad inexplicably happened. What are the odds! Spike starts to glow like a nightlight and is burning all over which is PROBABLY something they should get looked at right away, so Rarity drags his ass out of the cave and takes him directly to Twilight’s Doom Fortress, presumably passing by the hospital on the way there. Luna and Celestia JUST SO HAPPEN TO BE THERE so that they can provide an exposition dump as to why Spike has turned into a scaly glow stick. It turns out that one of the few things ponies know about dragons (seriously, how the hell do they not know that much about a prominent species on their planet?) is The Call of the Dragon Lord, which basically means that at ANY TIME, the head honcho of the dragons can compel other dragons to meet with them. That’s… terrifying. So basically every dragon, including those living among the ponies, is in essence a sleeper agent? They can be summoned and activated at any time, even if they don’t live with the other dragons? What if the Dragon Lord has some insane request like Kill All Ponies? Also, what if the dragon refuses the call entirely? Hell, if they’re a citizen of Equestria, why should they need to meet with the head of state of another country (or I guess of a roaming tribe if they don’t have a land to call their own)? I’m SURE all these questions will be answered soon enough because Spike decides that he has to go; if for no other reason than to stop the burning sensation all over his body.
Rarity and Twilight have decided to accompany him on this journey with the one caveat being that they have to wear a rock costume so as to be discrete. Isn’t one of them a head of state by this point? Why would she need to be sneaky here!? I’d like to SEE the dummy who tries to take a swing at a princess, and then see what he looks like after Twilight’s done with them!! Hell, even if it’s FORBIDDEN for ponies to go (which isn’t made clear if that’s the case), it would be SUPER bad for Twilight specifically to go considering her presence would probably be enough to constitute an international crisis and a war between the ponies and dragons! Hell, I’m surprised Luna and Celestia don’t seem to have a problem with this considering how easily Twilight bungled the LAST international escapade in Party Pooped and was only bailed out by a dance party!
Anyway, Dragon Lord Torch has summoned all the dragons (not just Spike) so that he can announce his retirement and inform his citizens of a contest to see who will be their next leader. Geez, no wonder they live in a dirt canyon. HOW CAN THE GOVERNMENT FUNCTION WHEN LEADERSHIP IS DETERMINED BY AN OBSTACLE COURSE!? Oh, and by the way? The animators got PRETTY lazy here, what with there being only like eight dragons in any given shot (not in copy pasted silhouettes) and none of whom are bigger than two ponies stacked on top of each other.
Alright, so what exactly does one need to do in order to become the next Dragon Lord? They have to go into a volcano and retrieve a scepter that Torch throws inside. Not much a challenge considering that dragons are immune to lava. Lord Dragon Torch by the way is a TOTAL prick who talks big and yells at people, but doesn’t seem to have a brain cell to back it up. Good thing this is just a cartoon and that we’ve never seen a supposed politician act like THAT before, am I right? His daughter seems like an obvious choice, though she’s banned from joining the competition because of reasons which means she’ll probably sneak her way in and will be the next Dragon Lord by the end. One dragon that’s DETERMINED not to win is Spike who’s forced summoning glowing thingy has finally gone away which means he can drag his fake rock that’s definitely NOT hiding two ponies back to Equestria and forget all this ever happened. That is until the young dragons around him start to discuss their plans for world domination (or pony domination, but they’re essentially the same thing in this series) should they win the kingdom, including the red jerk from Dragon Quest who is apparently named Garble. See, this is why you don’t establish governmental authority through a match of King of the Hill. Because of this, Spike feels he must win the tournament if for no other reason than to protect Ponyville from an onslaught by the dragons. Then again, he’s clearly got a pony bias which means he probably wouldn’t be the most effective leader of his people, but what are you gonna do. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
Yeah… the baby dragon doesn’t really stand a chance here, so Rarity and Twilight should be spending less of their time following spike and giving inspirational speeches, and instead should be racing back to get the Royal Guard prepared and stationed on Equestria’s boarders. Still, he manages to do one thing right which is to drag a dragon to shore that was knocked out mid-flight (the first part of the competition is getting to the island with the volcano in one piece). Now in the context of winning this competition, you probably wouldn’t consider that to be a right move, but when the mysterious dragon in gold plated armor you saved from drowning turns out to be the Dragon Lord’s daughter (Ember) in disguise, well I’d consider that a fast track to at least a knight status when she wins the competition.
We find out that apparently dragons don’t “do” friends which is why she’s suspicious about foreign agents trying to ensure someone they like gets ascended to the throne. Well she’s a straight up liar then because I recall VERY CLEARLY in Dragon Quest that Garble had at least two sniveling cronies with him AND that all the dudes there were having plenty of bromantic bonding, so saying DRAGONS DON’T DO FRIENDS is her being completely dishonest. That, or the writers have their heads so far up their asses that they don’t recall what happened THE LAST TIME Garble was in an episode, AND that they can’t bother to write a civilization other than pony ones as anything but a list of horribly contrived clichés to the point that it becomes somewhat imperialistic. That was a HUGE problem in last season’s The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone, and it’s sadly repeated here. Ponies know about FriendshipTM and no one else. All other countries are on the brink of ruin or completely isolated. It’s only through the power of these FriendshipTM missionaries that positive change can be made. Dragons don’t do friendship, and apparently they don’t do diversity, architecture, communities, and scientific advancements; all things that ponies get to do (though the Dragon’s do at least have egos and warmongering). The best aspect of this show is the rich and expanding world that has been set up with all sorts of fantasy creatures and untold mysteries, yet every time we branch out to another culture, it comes off as lazy and… whatever the fantasy world version of racism is.
Despite Ember’s wariness of this oddly helpful baby dragon, she agrees to work with him towards their mutual goal; much the same way Nobunaga and Ieyasu combined the strengths of their two clans to run roughshod over the warring states… by flying through the air and avoiding rocks. I’m sure that’s how it went!
The two manage to make their way through the obstacles unscathed with Twilight and Rarity always on the side lines cheering them on, presumably teleporting their way up the mountain side. One of the few dragons who manage to just barely snake their way through the onslaught is Garble which is quite depressing to think that he’s among the cream of the crop here. Even Ember qualifications are in question considering that she doubles down on her FRIENDS AREN’T A DRAGON THING coda which is the impetus for her abandoning Spike before she gets too attached. Spike is particularly heartbroken about this which I guess if fine considering he’s still a baby dragon, but what part of their fifteen minute relationship had any indication that she and him were gonna become besties?
And then after that, we end up following Spike and the not so subtly hidden ponies as they traverse the final leg of the competition which seems to be a maze; Spike kvetching about Ember the entire time. Fortunately that doesn’t seem to have impeded his progress as they just end up wandering their way to the end of it and see that the Dragon Scepter is within reach! Too bad the Garble somehow managed to get there too (he probably followed Spike) and is about to chuck the little bastard off a cliff when someone comes in to save the day!
While Ember is apologizing to Spike for having to go off-screen to finish her character arc, Garble has discovered the two ponies and are menacing them in the most unconvincing way possible. Seriously? THESE two ponies are scared of this brat? One of whom is a princess, and the other is an Element of Harmony. Both of whom worked together to take down Tirek, Discord, and Nightmare Moon, but this dragon with an overbite is gonna be the one to do them in?
Ember ends up taking down Garbles while Spike goes off to grab the scepter, so maybe it was actually a clever ploy by them to make sure their guy gets control over the dragons. Either way, the competition is over and Garbles will not use his power of the dragons to wage a failed war against the mighty Equestrian Empire. Instead, Spike uses his powers to force him to give everyone a hug (presumably whether the recipient wants one or not) just to spite him. Now that his one goal as Dragon Lord is complete, he passes the title on to another; one who ACTUALLY wanted it.
Admittedly, I did like this part here where he explains that he trusts her to do the right thing with the power he’s giving her and it’s yet another example of Spike being more than Twilight’s royal gopher. He’s done quite a lot considering he’s still a kid, which can only mean good things for the future of Equestria and the dragons. Imagine what he can do once he’s an adult! Ember returns to her father to claim the kingdom for herself and he takes it surprisingly well considering how he had forbidden her from being a part of this competition in the first place. Still, everyone else seems to be cool with it so, maybe things will work out okay. And so the world is safe once again! The future of the dragons are in capable hands, and the ponies now have a solid alley going forward! Plus, twilight gets to have a new dragon friend to answer all her dragon questions, which I’m SURE won’t get awkward right away!
This episode was alright, but considering the potential it had it was quite disappointing. I’m confused as to why the writers here did so little with the Dragons, to the point that it looks like animation cutbacks. Just recently in episodes like The Gift of the Maude Pie, we’ve seen numerous ponies, in big city landscapes with intricate designs and lavish details. Here? They’re in a dirt canyon and there’s like eight dragons. Maybe dragons’ are harder to work with considering the show doesn’t have a pre-built template to work with, but that doesn’t excuse how little we got out a story that could have been far more interesting and have had some real consequences. Is it asking too much that a kid’s show have scope and legitimate stakes? This could have been something along the lines of How to Train Your Dragon (or How to Train your Dragon 2 considering we’re going into the land of dragons) but instead it feels like a wasted opportunity. Not only that, but the imperialism stuff I’ve been bringing up, while maybe a bit exaggerated, is starting to annoy me as we’ve now got at least two kingdoms that are portrayed in broad and unflattering terms compared to the ponies. On it’s own, it’s fine with some decent jokes, a solid ending, and a new character who could become very important in the future, but in the grand scheme of things it’s just another example of this show dropping the ball when it comes to world building. Maybe we’ll come back to this in the future and they’re figure out how to make a species outside of ponies not come off like walking, talking, clichés (they managed to do it with Equestria Girls) but they really need to figure this out before they take us to the Zebra country (you KNOW that’s gonna happen at some point).