• Editorial: Who is Spike? What Lies Ahead For Him?

    Special thanks to Harwicks Art for the awesome cover!
    He is Twilight's number one assistant, Rarity's favorite dragon, and a Crystal Empire hero. Our cute Spikey-Wikey has been through a lot ever since Twilight hatched him. We have been there every step of the way. But much like a sibling or friend that has grown before your very eyes, I can't help but wonder: what is in store for Spike in the future seasons? Along with that, exactly who is Spike? Is he a glorified servant that struggles to find his calling while cooking breakfast for Twilight? A butt-monkey character that's simply used for amusement or visual gags? Or is he misunderstood, and the true power of his immaturity hasn't been tapped yet? Let's find out after the break.

    This editorial has been a long time coming, simply because Spike is in a different situation now than he was at the beginning of the show. To paraphase some folk wisdom: everything has changed for him, and yet still stayed the same. The fandom seems to feel the same way. I always get that feeling amongst the fandom whenever there's a Spike episode announced, or released. Everyone feels the episode is different in one way or another, but still the same because it's a "Spike episode".

    I find this notion interesting. Why is a Spike episode a "Spike episode"? Is it because the writers are bad? Is it because all of the fun ideas that could be done with Spike are either in progress, or too mature for a kid's show? Or perhaps it's because Spike isn't the character everyone thinks he is.

    Whenever I think of Spike, this screen capture is the first thing that comes to my mind. It's an oldie, but a goodie. Spike is a child character who never wastes the time to enjoy the little things, whether it be a bowl of gems or an action-packed comic. However, there are some long-term problems that Spike struggles with from time to time, such as his attraction with Rarity or his own self-worth as a dragon. But while these problems only seem to stay in his mind for around 22 minutes at a time, it's understandable that Spike wouldn't be worried from episode to episode. At the end of the day, he comes home to a mentor that loves him and a refrigerator full of food.

    Sometimes I call Spike the "Mini Applejack", because his childlike honesty is what I remember the most when I think of his character. His blatant teasing of Twilight's nest-making from Season 1, all the way to Spike's famous fourth wall break in "Simple Ways" points to how essential Spike is as a character. He stands out as the straight dragon among a group of characters that either fall apart, miss the point, or are simply blinded by being "inside the box". He has a perspective that not even the Cutie Mark Crusaders can bring to the table. Yet, I'm not impressed by him.

    Now, don't get me wrong. I like the idea of Spike. I love children characters, especially when they are done well or lurk in the background until they have that final word or sentence that tears down another character emotionally or gives them the eureka effect. I'm thinking of "Breaking Bad", "Louie", movies like "Mrs. Doubtfire", or games like "The Walking Dead". Spike is a child character, and I fully believe that he is a good character, but I couldn't really pinpoint what made me so ambivalent towards him compared to the Spike fans. I really couldn't care less if he was or wasn't in an episode (except for ones where it's obvious he is needed, a la "Simple Ways"). However, his problem is what I mentioned before: he's a more niche Applejack.

    I'm reminded of a popular piece of advice that marketers and public speakers give out when someone wants to invent or beta test something: give it to a child. I'm not talking about commercials directed to children or anything along those lines. That's a different conversation altogether. I'm talking about the type of honesty children have that I don't think is comparable to Applejack's. It's ignorant honesty that is different in its own way. It's honesty that isn't held back by the norms of society, simply because Spike hasn't had the norms ingrained within his mind yet. If there's a terrible nest in front of him, he will point it out unequivocally, unless nudged to lie. Obviously this type of honesty doesn't solve every problem, but it can bring the characters out of "the box" within their world, which I don't feel is used enough.

    Don't be sad, Spike. Maybe someday, I'll like you more.

    Another problem for Spike is that the Cutie Mark Crusaders exist. All three of the Cutie Mark Crusaders are not vastly different characters from Spike, so if the show wants to continue with its "morals every episode" tradition, then the lessons could eventually run out. Some debate that this is already the case with Princess Spike, and I partially agree. I just don't feel that the show writers are thinking outside the box enough, or that there's much to do with Spike in general that still fits with the show's style and themes. Sometimes a character simply runs their course.

    A final problem that I notice with Spike is that he's best used when he's working off of other characters, like Applejack. This is obvious, considering all of Spike's best moments came from episodes where he wasn't the main focus, which correlates to Applejack as well. Best moments are of course subjective, but I've never heard someone say "Spike's best moments were in 'Dragon Quest'" or "Applejack's best moments were in 'Apple Family Reunion'". On the other side of the coin, I've heard many people raving about "Inspiration Manifestation", "Pinkie Apple Pie", "Just for Sidekicks", and "Secret of My Excess" to name a few. Spike and Applejack are good characters, but they aren't good main characters.

    Surely Spike is due for an episode regarding his crush on Rarity, considering their relationship seems to have less depth in their numerous references and episodes than Lyra and Bon Bon's 6-ish minutes in "Slice of Life". It's not the writer's fault for that, the door was simply closed for now. But perhaps Spike is due for another "Dragon Quest", or an episode where his honesty gets him in trouble, since the opposite was the case for "Inspiration Manifestation". I have an idea that can be best summarized in a picture:

    Coming soon to a fanfic near you. Also I'm aware that the Rarity book by G. M. Berrow essentially did this.

    Spike's life is currently awesome and fulfilled, and that is his problem. Everything has changed, and yet stayed the same. His mentor is now a Princess, who travels with her friends across Equestria, leaving the castle for Spike to enjoy, if he can. Spike's home changed from a lonely Canterlot library full of dusty old books to a castle in the friend-filled Ponyville. Spike's desire to find out who he is has been quenched, for the time being. Along with that, his attraction for Rarity is on the bench, and he doesn't seem to mind.

    Spike is an interesting character, one that some say has been handled poorly, while others (including myself) would say that he is simply a flawed character, left behind by the ascension of his main sidekick. When other characters aren't pumping out better episodes with more convincing morals, Spike continues to have "Spike episodes". While "Princess Spike" wasn't equivalent to "Spike at Your Service" (I thought "Princess Spike" was enjoyable), it seems that Spike is currently the underdog of the show, desperate to make a comeback. We still have another half of Season 5 to look forward to, and I'm sure we can all agree that we don't need a Spike episode as his comeback. We simply need something catered to him.

    Well, that's it for this week's editorial. A special thanks to Sethisto for letting me write on one of the most hot button characters in recent memory. Please feel free to let me know if there's anything I missed, or if there would be an interesting editorial topic that you would like us to tackle! I'll be lurking the comments, answering any questions or possible ideas that could either help Spike, or the editorial itself. Thank you for reading and we'll see you next time!