• Episode Followup: The Molt Down

    (Sprite Spike by Mr. Poniator)
    As we reluctantly moved on from the days of Gameboy Colours and Pokemon Gold/Silver, so too has our little #1 Assistant become a #1 Man. Sunrise, sunset...

    If you've managed to dodge the leaks, international airings, and even Discovery Family itself spoiling this development, you're made of actual magic and I salute you.

    Now that we've seen it for realsies, join me down below for screenshots, discussion, and an abundance of puberty jokes! 

    I'm not surprised Spike would go all the way out to the phoenix nests for Rarity, but I am surprised Rarity would. Don't you run several businesses? And teach a class?

    Eh, I've procrastinated harder than that, I suppose.

    But, by the by, it's totally the exact same place as in Dragon Quest. 

    It's an unnamed forest on the way to the volcano-y region the dragons hung-out in briefly, which as far as I can tell is called the Badlands. The volcanoes, not the forest.

    On a related note, I read a review of this episode poking fun at EQD (and analysts) for our love of continuity. I can't lie, they had our number pegged, this is just neat. Have they been saving these assets for that long?

     In-universe reason for Peewee's leaving is okay. Out-of-universe one in a bit.

    Quick question: has Spike been holding his face the entire trip here? Because it's not a short jaunt, this is like a multi-hour train ride and walk at least.

    Spike needs to be taught how to put a bandaid over it and Rarara isn't too observant.

    Spoke too soon, she caught you. That suspicious pout.


    With apologies to those with sensitive stomachs.
    Aaaand asmidgeofbodyhorror.png

    Although, give the design team credit, there's only one shot in the episode like this (I'm so, so thankful, that could've been horrific to sit through). A single close up to sell how painful and embarrassing it is, then for the rest of the episode, they're aesthetically pleasing diamonds.

    They really didn't draw it out more than necessary and my hat goes off to them for that.

    Petition to rename Spike "Precious Pants."
    "Don't worry, darling, diamonds will be in next season."

    "You think?"

    "I own the entire fashion industry at this point, I can make it so."

    Oh hey, it's you two. Terrorize any pesky teenage dragons lately?

    Bonus points for Rarity's foreshadowing "Everypony has to leave the nest at some point."

    Peewee! Oh my gosh! I thought you died on your way back to your home planet!

    You know how long I've been waiting for them to at least reference this bird? In my books, Peewee was such a wasted opportunity! If you remember, the explanation as to why Peewee was written out of the show was that the writers just forgot about him when writing Just for Sidekicks until late into production, so they had to show us a dialogue-less picture montage of Peewee leaving.

    But Peewee represents such a great character moment for Spike (regardless if you like Dragon Quest or not). Spike would later come to meet other, cooler dragons than the teens he came across, but the notion that he can define who he is and choose the family and homeland he grew up in is powerful.

    It's especially fitting for them to bring him back here, because that's exactly what this episode builds on. More on that in a bit.

    Me, at any given time.

    For real, though, nice shading on the blanket-burrito. And I'm sure it's been pointed out, but the toy or kite or whatever hanging from the ceiling is in the shape of a dragon taking flight.

    Foreshadowing, or just a character-building background detail?

    She really has no poker face, huh?

    It's like your face killed her owl.

    I wanna make a joke about puberty hitting him like a train, but all I can hear is Kevin McCallister trying shaving for the first time.

    What a compassionate surrogate... mother? Sister?

    I'd still love it if they clear that up at some point. Headcanons be damned, the world must know!

    Also, Haber wrote this thing. He's such a mixed bag writer for me. I never know when to expect a Shadow Play or a Crystalling (implied: no disrespect to those that liked or disliked those episodes).

    Oh god, acne would be so much worse if it was itchy. This just made me thankful for zits, what kind of episode is this.

    Pfft. Not bitter.

    Can we get more insights like this into Twilight's upbringing and adolescence? As evidenced by... everything I do, I love it when we hear about how Celestia helped to raise (sort of) her students, it's the best.

    Hmm. Twi's teasing Spike like a big sister...
    Again, me, at any given time.

    Avoid it all by hiding under my blankets. This episode's getting too real, we need some kind of fantastical distraction.

    But forcing him to get sun like a mom. I know you don't need to state everything, but at least stick to showing one!
    Like that mythical thing called natural sunlight! That'll do.

    I would say this is an entry for Best Face but.

    Sorry, Spike.

    He may be growing up into a teenager, but doesn't he just have the cutest widdle cheeks?

    So cute, he has to pinch them himself. It's a problem, really.

    Not even  a joke, it's an actual problem this episode.

    Local Child Too Cute, Needs Help.

    "Slave labour will make you feel better."

    "That's your answer for everything."

    Legit, though, help my terrible memory. Have they given Spike a role in the school yet? He can be Vice Principal or something. I get that he's a kid and Twilight's kid (brother?) at that, so like... bad parenting/sistering if you force him to work for you, but he also likes to help?

    I dunno, commenters do your thing.

    Upgraded fire! It's blue, the hottest fire of all!

    I shouldn't be celebrating when Twilight's so close to a third degree burn.

    Now that's a best face.

    She might be stuck like that, actually.

    One of my favourite details in this whole thing are the character animations right here. Twilight just sadly prodding her hard work like she wants to check if it's still okay and Spike's panic dance.

    Oh yeah, and Twilight almost dies again. I bet she's used to it by now, at least, which... okay, probably isn't the best thing for her mental health.

    Slave labour jokes aside, it's genuinely a little sad when Twilight temporarily can't trust her number 1 assistant to assist.

    Look at his grabby claws. All he wants to do is help.

    Still a gorgeous campus. Wish my university was this pretty!

    Also, hey Yona! Hey, Sandbar, Gallus, and Silverstream! And possibly Ocellus?

    Probably Ocellus. We seriously need to talk to you 6 more. We just had a soapbox on these kiddos, but I'm writing an editorial on them, I need more.

    Don't worry, Spike. At least you've got a hat and know how to lean like a cool guy.

    This is just a happy Rarara to make up for screen-capping the stone scale earlier.

    My debt has been paid.

    Again: Rarity's just a boss friend.

    She knows exactly what's up, and it's nice to see her ahead of the game on this one.

    At first I thought she somehow forgot what muttering is, I was very confused.

    Is it part of Pinkie's... for lack of a better word "powers" to be in the right place at the right/wrong time? At the very least she has a habit of that.
    I swear, Pinkie doesn't say "free day" she says "whee day" and proceeds to bounce away shouting wheee!

    And if that's not the most Pinkie Pie thing you've seen all week, you might need to see a doctor. Overexposure is dangerous, know the warning signs.

    Tourist-y Manehatten ponies. You've certainly come a long way.

    Honestly, though, after the explosion of fame the Mane 6 received in the aftermath of their journal release, tours are the most logical thing to host at the Friendship School. Both for incoming students and for the ravenous fans!

    Saves Twilight the trouble of letting strangers tour around her home, I'll tell you that much.

    He's so not getting a tip.

    "Do all dragons at this school have scale issues?"
    This is still very much a world getting used to multiculturalism and throwing in lines, both from randos and regulars, about how they really just don't know much about each other really helps solidify that. 

    I suppose Chancellor Neighsay would be proud, but who wants that?

    Hey little mama lemme whisper in yo ear.

    Lucky, my boy, you're a long way from Manehatten.

    I'll be honest, I mostly capped this because hat-hair floof.

    Excuse you?

    Twilight has a new library and she hired a librarian?!

    Well, I guess whoever used to live in Golden Oakes before Twilight would like her job back eventually, but still, it's a shock.

    Oh, and show artists? You would've gotten points if it was Amethyst Star. She's the one who used to be the organizer before Twilight came to town, and everyone just... stopped needing her. I worry about Amethyst sometimes, can we make sure she's got a job here too?

    Nice library is nice. I also like the touch that it's Twilight-themed. Cutie mark, colour scheme. Very nice, design team!

    See, they listened when whined about the Castle.

    What a nice bunch of study buddies. Though who the responsible one is is beyond me. I was going to say Sandbar keeps excitable Yona and rowdy Smolder in check, but surfer bro might space out, too, so they've probably just been staring at the page pretending to study at best.

    Not that I want to know the gross details, but are the purple ones more or less painful?

    Also, again with the near third-degree burns, this is getting concerning. Ponyville doesn't even have a firehouse, and with a dragon resident living there for years now they really should.

    Now, see, I wanna know more about Smolder. More episodes like this, please.

    Her archetype would suggest she's a little too cool or self-centered to care, but even if she'd fit right at home with Garble and his band of idiots, she goes looking for him. It's telling.

    There might be a reason she was chosen by Dragon Lord Ember to attend this school. 

    I hate to make the same joke twice, but damn, Discord had a point last week. Look at her go.

    Now, see, here's my thing for this episode. Besides the Peewee rant, I'm not counting that.

    I contend that this episode would've been even better if Smolder was in more of it. Think about what we're looking at here: Smolder is a proud dragon who's recently been drafted for a Pony school in Pony land, and Spike, bless his little heart, chose to be a pony in a dragon's body and once even, and excuse my bolding, gave up being a Dragon Lord.

    Rarity's in this episode a fair bit, and you already know how I feel about her shouting. Funny performance, cute Rarity moments are always a plus, but honestly, after this point, her only purpose is to get Spike outside and then to be the damsel (I'm not against the damsel part, you can have characters become plot devices if necessary so long as it's well thought out).

    Instead, let these two diametrically opposed characters hash this issue out. The reason I said this is episode is building on Dragon Quest more than any other episode is because there, Spike refused his dragon nature.

    Since, he's tried to claim he's a "noble dragon" in one of the episodes that shall not be named, but even then, it's clear by Gauntlet of Fire that he's still proud to be pony.

    This episode on the other hand? The fact that Spike's a dragon is the problem. In fact it's about to take away everything he knows and loves.

    And ye, at one point Smolder says "It's all part of growing up dragon! Congratz!" like it's a good thing.

    You see why I'm dwelling on this? It's already baked into the theme of this episode as is, and that could've ended up being a really interesting way to explore it (and Smolder, who's still the most mysterious of the Student 6 in my opinion).

    And to be clear, I'm not upset that the episode didn't dive more into this and throw these characters against each other more (I'm not one to judge an episode by what it's not, possibilities just excite me), but fanfic writers, seriously, help me out here.

    Rant over, back to the episode at hand.

    Watch Smolder throughout this scene and you'll get excited that Spike now has wings. The staging, how much they move around even just in a supplies closet?

    Really cool stuff, from a visual storytelling standpoint.

    They finally clarified Secret of My Excess! Noice.
    Exile is pretty harsh. Of all the things to freak out over, I get this one.

    In fact, pretty sure in a show called Friendship is Magic, exile is the worst thing you can face. It's Spike's worst fear, if you remember.

    I bet at some point in season 9, that's gonna be a threat Twilight faces because c'mon. Come on.

    Bonus points for saying that all dragon children (including my new fav Smolderoo) go on a 300/Grecian style exile. That. That explains a lot about their culture. It's also pretty badass.

    Okay, no, Twilight's a mom.

    This is a big sister.

    1. Smolder has a brother, which makes it all the more eyebrow raising that she's one of the only kids that wasn't brought here by a family member. Maybe it's not that deep, but still, makes me curious what her deal is.

    2. The genuine concern that shows on Smolder's face occasionally intrigues me.

    You can tell I like tough characters with a secret soft side, and aside from the cute, it's also just neat that there's inherently layers to a character like that.

    We're learning so much about Smolder! She likes Maud's favourite bird and terrorizing children!

    The character-building this season is amazing.

    You stink and talk too loud. Yeah, that's what I remember puberty being like.

    Sometimes flanderization claims are legitimate, but sometimes I just want to see Pinkie shove her insane face into a room and shout at people.

    Poor show staff, I'm so inconsistent to please.

    There's a nice scene transition, but I chose to focus on this face because it's gorgeous.

    I dare you to doubt my decision.

    Poor guy, he's been through a lot. It's not easy being rejected by everyone and having to go to a friendly hermit in the forest for help.

    Though, I'm glad for more Zecora! She's still fun. We don't really seem to get much development from her, ever, but all the same, she's a treat to have in an episode.

    Like I said. A treat.

    Lots of Best Faces from our boy in this episode. I would make a compilation, but at that point I'd be screen-capping every other second.

    And now, the explanation.

    Phoenix feathers deafen ponies. Okay, sure. I've already made my case for the Smolder version of this episode, so I'll just see myself out.

    Solid Spike.

    See, Zecora's fun! She always introduces neat plant-life or herbal-based remedies that I'm not entirely convinced aren't a magic of their own.

    She totally mentored Twilight once, it's possible.

    She's deaf, bro. You don't have to sneak. As long as Zecora holds her attention, you have free license to walk out the door banging pots together.

    Sidepoint: it's adorable that Rarity mutters to herself without realizing it while working. If that isn't the most Rarity thing you've heard, you know what to do.

    Best redesign is still best redesign. Fluttershy's cottage comes close, but dang, if this isn't cool!

    That mask looks like it's moving? Must be the glowy Everfree mushrooms...

    Hello, third act!

    I love when they introduce new creatures, don't you?

    I want to point out that showing this screenshot with or without context to us is enough to make a convention hall go crazy.

    We're an odd bunch, but that's what makes it fun.

    A best face entry from Zecora? Now that's a rarity!

    Bird's eye view of Spike.

    Spike's bird's eye view. Know the difference.

    This is why Zecora's not in many episodes, to avoid exactly this.

    She's smart.

    Aw. Okay, but this is actually a sad image. Regardless of your opinion on the shouting subplot, there's a feel feels to be had in here.

    I love that they just make us watch the bird swooping in, clearly from miles and miles away. It makes me laugh just how long that thing's coming towards them.

    I'd be upset, too, those claws are pulsing.

    On top of that, Rarity's line later about this not being the first time she's been in the clutches of a terrible, giant creature. None of this used to happen before Twilight and Spike came to town.

    Oh yeah, he's a teenager alright. Completely apathetic even in the face of mortal danger?

    Our baby boy's all grown up!

    Spike sliding down the tree was just satisfying to watch and I'm not even itchy.

    Le glow.

    Now it's got me wondering, so the end of the Molt is activated by extreme emotion or, dare I say, care for others? It's funny, then, that dragons typically go into exile during it. They fundamentally don't understand emotions, alright.

    And if that isn't the most dragon thing you've heard—

    Look who's there but isn't a damsel. Haber knew what he was doing; if Twi got caught, we'd be very up in arms right now.
    Holy crud, what's with this episode and almost maiming Twilight?

    Be safe, my child.

    Best face achieved. New screen-saver chosen.

    Oh look, it's her you just blew up the wrong library face.

    It's a little not okay (in the best way) that that's a specific face she has now.

    I meant to get a cool shot of Twi firing her Goku beams, but instead I got wing butt.

    The relief is palpable here.

    Huh. Dragons turn to stone to get wings. I suppose it's a bit like the cocoon a caterpillar goes into.

    So, the best thing that's happened to me this week is that dragon's are confirmed for butterflies.

    A beautiful princess was born! Had to learn how to gif for this one because that moment right there? It's made of Brony screams.

    I can hear this gif. Suppose that's why so many of you were excited to watch reaction vids for this episode!

    How odd must it be to suddenly have control over and sensation in new limbs. 

    Twilight couldn't sleep well with hers, there's so much adjusting to do!

    But it's all worth it for moments like this. You deserve them, little guy!

    Despite being a pony on the inside, Spike's now a proud dragon on the outside, wings and all. I give you the Equestrian Ambassador to the Dragons, everyone!

    Everything's going to be just fine!
    Okay, I admit, this was the real reason I learned to gif. I needed this.

    I think everyone appreciates his lack of control at first, even if he picks it up pretty fast for the plot's sake.

    And I appreciate his little Superman pose, so everybody wins.

    "Wings? I would expect this from Pinkie Pie, but not you."

    Gosh, what an image!

    Imagine showing this to a fan from season 2. What crazy fanart this must be!

    In fact, check out this fan-made promotion poster from 2012:


    I've gotta admit, I was more gullible back then, so for a minute there, I went nuts over this! And now it's nearly a reality!

    With apologies to Scootaloo.

    I enjoy my job here too much.

    I call this the Withing Snacking Distance maneuver. The kid's got a lot of confidence for someone who's wings could send him barrelling through the sky at any moment. 

    A salute to Sethisto: this is the closest to thing to more bats you're getting, pal. Drink it in.

    I officially want Spike on my side for a fight!

    For real, though, we've acquired so many powerful magic users and characters great in a fight. The biggest missed opportunity of Hasbro's run was C&D-ing our Fighting is Magic instead of diving head-first into the legal nonsense to hire that team to make it for them. Would've been so worth it.

    Safe and sound again!

    I also might add, Spike isn't necessarily faster than Twilight, but he is more aerodynamic and you can see that as they fall. Nice touch.

    It will always warm my heart to see any of the Mane 6 be proud of Spike. 

    And now a series of picks demonstrating how his fashionable new wings look! Here's droopy wings, the body language new but very clear.

    And pointy, because he's making a point.

    For those of you keeping score at home, this is the second time Spike's faced his worst fear (shown in Sombra's door) of Twilight either sending him away and/or not needing him anymore. As much as that episode needed a revision, Spike at Your Service had him do exactly that to keep a promise to Applejack.

    He's got a guts.

     And here's how they look folded. This one will take the most getting used to, I think, but then again, he's always had a bit of a rump sticking out there. Now it's just covered up with flattering wings!

    Coincidentally, they're both hugging each other's wings.

    This riding on Twilight's back thing hasn' happening in years, I don't think, but harkening back to earlier seasons is a nice touch, as well.

    He was a baby back then, likely a child somewhere in between, and now, a perhaps a preteen? Or about to become one? Dragon puberty doesn't necessarily have to line up to regular human development, but no matter how much time you want to argue has passed, he's no baby anymore.

    Though some things will never change.

    This fitting is rather fitting, too. Spike's growth back in Dragon Quest was represented by a phoenix who found a family (temporarily) in an unlikely place. Now Spike is the phoenix, being reborn not in the redemptive sense, but as a pony fully aware and accepting of his growing dragon body.

    Not that he was in denial or anything, but Spike's story has always been a coming of age one. And this is his reward for all the progress he's made so far, and in turn, a sign of things yet to come.

    Thank you for a fun, momentous episode, MLP staff, and thanks to all of you for reading along. It's been a hard week for me personally, but I'm so proud to see Spike reaching his full potential.