Yes, we have a Search Option

31 December 2012

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic "Spike at your Service" Review

The other day, someone linked an old commercial on twitter. It was a commercial for an internet service called Prodigy that was marketed to home computers in 1990. I was fascinated during the two minutes it lasted, which was the exact time I had to realize two things: One, I am very old; and two, I will never get used to that dizzy sensation that sets in your body after they force perspective on you. Perspective is one powerful tool and we usually don’t get to appreciate it because we are so worried about the future that we don’t consider looking back to where we come from. This year has been one year this fandom will never forget, and looking back at January you have to realize all that has happened, the good and the bad, the proud and the shameful, the positive and the negative, the constructive and the destructive. We’ve lost things, and we’ve gained things. And yet, I am still here, writing reviews of pony episodes. I don’t know if I should feel proud or disappointed. I guess some things never change. On to the review!

I was going to have my assistant write the TL; DR for me, but he ran away with my fridge and my Xbox, and it’s very likely he will never return. He left a note though: Dear James, this episode wasn’t as good as the rest of the other episodes we have had this season, but it still has good things to it. PS: I am taking your copy of “Hitman Absolution”.

So the episode starts at Twilight’s library, where we discover what she has been doing these past few episodes after fighting Trixie and being pretty much absent. Apparently she’s still working for Princess Celestia, obviously, and she is yet to face one of the most arduous tasks ever. She has to read twelve books in a weekend! Now, I might make fun, but if you were a slow reader like me you’ll understand how admirable of a task this is. It’s taking me months to read through “Dante’s Inferno” and that book is small compared to the ones Twilight has to read. With her weekend settled, Twilight gives Spike the rest of the day off, which he promptly uses to catch up on all the things he’s been wanting to do, like play bongos with his tummy or smell his feet. Wow, what a pretty humble (and bizarre) fellow Spike is, isn’t he? He really doesn’t demand much out of life, I guess being a glorified fax machine has its advantages and disadvantages. I love how he too uses a checklist, like Twilight does, which proves he’s been influenced by the adorkable little unicorn. With pretty much nothing else to do for the rest of the day, Spike decides to take a balloon ride, but apparently he’s been taking lessons from both Mr. Bean and Derpy, and as he approaches the balloon he manages to untie it and let it fly away. As he chases it he manages to trample and crash onto almost everypony until he finally catches the rope and ties the balloon to a tree branch. That would be great, if it wasn’t because he tied the rope in the Everfree Forest.

And the rope is tied to an Ent. And the Ent was passing a kidney stone and so very angry.
So soon enough he is being assaulted by the most dreadful, horrible, despicable and disgusting monster in the history of cartoons: Computer generated graphics! Actually I have to point out that the animation in the Timberwolves, which are the real enemies that are chasing Spike, is really well done. I didn’t realize until someone pointed it out to me that they were not animated with flash but with a 3D render. It fooled me at first, even though I can now notice the animation is different. I might have ended up noticing it sooner or later, but hey we can’t fault this show for trying new things. So Spike runs away from the wolves, whose breath is stinky enough to offend Mister Dirty Feet’s nostrils here. It doesn’t take long for him to run into a dead end, and right before the wolves pounce on him, a rock comes out of nowhere and knocks one of them on the head. It happens to be Applejack who’s been looking for the balloon and is now using her trusty legs like a shotgun to fire rocks at the monsters with quite deadly precision. Talk about sticks and stones might break their bones, eh? This chase scene lasts not too long and it’s not too short either, it has a perfect length, and it shows what a resourceful pony Applejack is. She also shows no remorse at destroying the hell out of these wolves. I mean dear lord; she reduces them to a pile of sticks. I’ve seen action movies less violent than this. But all in all, it’s very cartoony and slapsticky, which fits for this kind of episode. After the Timberwolves are vanquished, Spike runs to Applejack thanking her for saving his life, which is when the little dragon realizes what just happened. Applejack has saved his life. After hugging her, they grab the balloon and return back to Ponyville, not noticing the branches that formed the Timberwolves are putting themselves back together again.

"What did you say about weeping willows? Our mom was a weeping willow!"
Back to Ponyville, and after returning the balloon to its owner, Spike is showing a bit too much appreciation to Applejack for saving his life, which involves doing things like carrying a bucket full of apples and knocking them out everywhere. Spike is so grateful that AJ saved him that he insists in fulfilling that debt of gratitude by helping her at the farm, something that Applejack doesn’t really look forward to. Despite that she allows Spike to give her a hand with the chores, which ends in something that almost everybody has pointed out and that I agree with. Spike is as useless as a racket without strings in this episode. Previous episodes have showed that Spike is, not only capable of doing chores, but he is also smart and has the ability to simplify things. He is a resourceful little guy whose wits have taken him out of sticky situations once and again, and has proven this through every single episode he’s been into. From the start of the series to the beginning of season 3 he has shown growth, development, and has proven that, while sometimes clumsy, he can fence for himself. This was solidified when he and he alone, with some assistance from Princess Cadance, managed to return the Crystal Heart to its place of origin, destroying King Sombra and returning the peace to the Crystal Kingdom. That alone put Spike at the same level of characters like Samwise from “Lord of the Rings”, Watson in the TV show “Sherlock”, or Neville Longbottom in “Harry Potter”. He is the badass sidekick. He is the kind of guy you want to have on your side when facing an evil enemy. And what did they do to him in this episode? They have him sticking his hand in pie barter, throwing mopes on the ceiling, knocking off stuff everywhere, breaking everything, putting ponies in peril, and pretty much being a complete ditz. I’m not saying we haven’t seen Spike being clumsy from time to time, but this is too over the top, even for this show! After he has devastated the entire kitchen trying to make pies we learn that Spike is trying to follow his personal dragon code, which means that he has to pay the life saving debt with a lifetime of servitude to whoever saved him, which means Applejack has a big problem.

Besides that broom hanging from the ceiling, although you can call it modern art.
The country pony suggests Spike to go ask Twilight to make sure she’s okay with him leaving which takes us to a fairly confusing scene. We see Spike arriving at the library to tell Twilight that he is leaving her forever after all these years of servitude, and Twilight doesn’t pay any attention to him because she is deeply involved in her reading. Spike struggles with the words, as she keeps nodding oblivious to what he’s saying. At the end, he bids Twilight goodbye, as some tears roll down his face. I still don’t know what I was supposed to feel during this scene. Was it supposed to be funny? Sad? Ironic? Cynical? Sarcastic? Neutral? They sure make the crying noticeable, but the way Twilight acted was pretty much how she acted in “Dragonshy” when reading the map. I don’t know, and to be honest I think nobody does either. It feels like a joke without a punch line. I know its purpose, and it works when you see it from a purely storytelling standpoint. It serves to cement the reason why Spike will be hanging out with Applejack for the rest of the episode, and it gives Applejack nothing to say on the matter, but the tone is all over the place. You should either make it funny or make it sad, don’t make it everything. Despite all that, the episode continues as Spike returns to the farm to tell Applejack he will be serving her forever, which puts her in a very unhappy mood. After Spike is done baking the pie he asks Applejack for more things to do, and after looking at potentially disastrous scenarios, from painting a fence to chopping wood with an axe, she decides to give him the simple chore of taking the pie he just baked to someone, and because this is Spike he decides to take it to Rarity, which leads us to one of the highlights of the episode, believe it or not. I have to point out how this series likes to have poor Rarity eat the worst possible things. She drank the Gummy marinated punch, the chocolate covered canapĂ©, a cactus, she got splattered with cake, and she was rather close to taste Sweetie Belle’s continental breakfast. And, from a Rarity fan’s perspective, I think this is hilarious and I love it. Having the most refined, most girly and most fabulous of all the characters eat the most disgusting types of food is both cruel and perfect, because it makes sense, don’t you think? One of the best ways to create comedy is contrast, and I can’t describe my joy when I see poor Rarity scrunch her nose and bite the piece of pie fearful of catching the black plague if she even touches one inch of it. It only gets better when Spike fawns over her and says, with starry eyes: “You even look good when you are chewing, who does look good when they are chewing?” It’s nice they keep referring to his love for her, and not in a “in your face” kind of way. After Spike offers to clean the dishes Applejack explains to Rarity the situation, and she seems rather envious of AJ’s new dragon butler, even if he is fairly useless. Not a minute later Rainbow Dash shows up, and here we learn that Dash would love to have an assistant to do things for her, so she could focus on writing her novel. A novel.

And she will also fall in love with the Captain of the Wonderbolts, and together they will defeat Nightmare Moon and Discord, who are also in love with each other.
I’m sorry, I can’t get over that. Rainbow Dash is writing a novel. Once again I have to applaud the show runner’s work on developing the characters. It does make sense and everything, since she’s been reading so many books lately and the most natural response one gets after reading is to write something, so of course she will be writing a novel. I should question the quality of her work though, since this fandom has proven once and again that self insertion in your own work can lead to terrible results. Not that we will ever know, maybe. I secretly hope we do. Rainbow Dash doesn’t just bring news about her new novel, but also ideas on how to get rid of Spike’s persistent loyalty. So she announces that Applejack was going to build a tower of hay stacks for Dash to fly through, but hoping that Spike says no she says she decided to use rocks instead! Of course, Spike doesn’t say no and quickly builds an entire Jenga made out of rocks. So Dash has no other way to get around but to knock through it, right? This is Rainbow Dash who we are talking about, her stubbornness knows no bounds. That’s what you get for trying to deceive and lie to a friend. Give kudos to Dash, though. She doesn’t chicken out and crashes through the pile of rocks, which results in her seeing more than one star after impact. This doesn’t stop Spike from keep offering his help to Applejack, not even when she follows Fluttershy’s advice and tells Spike that she can’t think of anything he can help her with. This ends with Spike coming up with all sorts of ways for him to help her, from scratching her backside to assisted breathing. Giving up on everything, Applejack goes to see Twilight and figure out a way to make Spike stop acting like he does. The way AJ makes Twilight stop studying is hilarious though. Only those with OCD will know how annoying it is when someone comes and ruins your neatly organized work place. After Twilight fixes what Applejack messed, they figure out that the only way Spike will stop helping Applejack is if he saves her life, repaying one life saving debt with another. So the Mane six join together at Applejack’s farm and begin setting up another deception plan, as they ignore Pinkie Pie’s crazy ideas of party canons, honey combs, butterfly catching nets and moustaches. However this leads to a brick joke moment which I think is pretty funny.

This has me rolling on the floor everytime
So the plan to get Spike to save Applejack’s life is fairly simple, which means everything is going to go wrong half way through. The set up is that Applejack will fake getting her hoof stuck under a rock, while Pinkie Pie and Rarity run away from a fake Timberwolf that Twilight is controlling from the top of a tree, and Dash and Fluttershy enhance with their sound effects. We are even treated to a short but very funny acting lesson by Rarity, who puts her dramatic skills in motion and teaches Applejack some techniques to make her performance better. I always admire good actors who can act badly on purpose, and Ashleigh Ball should get all the praise she does in this scene. It is brilliant because Applejack is honest by nature, which means she can’t act to save her life. Literally. Of course we shan’t forget Tabitha’s Rarity, who goes beyond the call of duty when it comes to ham it up. It doesn’t take Spike too long to discover the whole scheme, and it’s not because the fake Timberwolf is as wooden as Applejack’s acting, but because Spike knows a Timberwolf’s breath is the first thing you will notice when you are being attacked by one. Which is why it’s so surprising for everyone involved when they start smelling the retched breath of the real Timberwolves coming from the forest. It should have been a sensible idea not to set this whole scheme right next to the Everfree Forest, though it’s too late to fix that now. The Timberwolves arrive and everypony and Spike run away to save their lives. Applejack stays behind to knock the wolves down using one of the rocks left from the pile of rocks from before, and even though this ends up with the wolves being destroyed for the second time, it also causes the pile to collapse and Applejack ends up being stuck in it for real. The Timberwolves, fed up with being destroyed more often than Rita’s monsters in The Power Rangers, decide to combine Voltron style into a massive Timberwolf to attack and surely devour Applejack in one bite. It was awesome to see them conjure the trees and branches from the forest as their creation grows into a massively cool and badass Mega-Timberwolf. The giant teeth, the drooling maw, those glowing scary eyes, all put together to create an automaton of pure horror. And then Spike grabs a tiny rock, throws it at the wolf’s mouth, and chokes him to death. Yeah, I bet you heard something when this happened, those were my groans of frustration. These guys are a bigger cop out than the Team Rocket! Although I have to admit, the Mega-Timberwolf asking for a second before punching his chest for air was very funny too.

Hold on, hold on, I think I feel it moving to the larynx
As they run away from the not-anymore-scary Timberwolves, they catch up with the rest. Applejack tells them that she got stuck under the rocks for real and Spike saved her life, thus ending his debt of gratitude with her. However he doesn’t seem too happy about it, what with the whole deception scheme and all, so they both decide to change their attitudes. Spike won’t have to be ever so grateful whenever someone does him a favour, and the others won’t need to go so far to make him see that his ways are wrong. After Applejack and Spike seal the deal with a hearty hoof-bump, we return to the library, where we see Twilight finishing the last book, as Spike gives her some light so her eyes don’t become even more strained.

So that was “Spike at your Service”, and if I have to describe this episode with a sentence that would be, all over the place. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it, I didn’t think it was meh, it just had a lot of good and bad moments mixed together and a very unbalanced structure. I will begin with what I liked, like always, so I can focus on the bad things later, but it’s going to be difficult not to drift onto the bad.

I really liked the dialogue and the character interactions in this episode, especially when it involves the Mane six. I know I have said over and over, but I want to point this out when I consider the writers for this episode. If you have followed me from the very beginning you will know how I am not the biggest fan of both Dave Polsky and Merriwether Williams, and how many times I said that they seem to have problems getting the personalities of the Mane six down. So when I saw their names in the writing credits I pretty much face palmed expecting a complete wreck. I am happy to say that in this episode I didn’t feel that. Everyone seemed to be themselves, and whenever they were together in the screen it was some of the most memorable moments, especially when they were planning to deceive Spike with their ultimate plan. I will go as far as saying that this is Williams’ best work when it comes to writing the characters, but then again don’t take my opinion into account and I am serious about this. I am one of the few people who liked “The Mysterious Mare-do-Well”, while I considered the rest of Williams’ writing to be unnecessary mean and not very well polished or executed. This one seemed to have a more natural pace to it, except for a problem that I will bring when I reach to the parts that I didn’t like of this episode. I know this is going to make me sound like the broken record that I am, but I think Rarity stole the spotlight in this episode. She nails the delivery right in the head. Her dramatic acting lessons, the way she hams it up, how she gloats about how good of an actress she is, it was all hilarious and very well executed. Pinkie Pie also stole the spotlight here, with both her random plan and the fake moustache. How can you make a pony better? Put a moustache on it. And of course, while we are still discussing characters, I also really liked Applejack. Her faces, her terrible acting, the ways she goes to try and shake Spike off of her are just perfect. I have a story with AJ, which I will tell you all who have been following me, in case you didn’t know. When I was watching the show for the first time, she was my favourite pony. I liked how rough she was, how strong and confident she was, and then as seasons 1 and 2 rolled I started to like her less, and less, because the other characters were given more traits, while AJ stayed in the same stage as before, and her personality traits were never enhanced or at least never put in contrast with the rest. However, since the start of season 3, she has been climbing spots on my list higher and higher. She has had more character development during the last nine episodes than during all of season 2, and considering how much we saw of her during season 2 that should tell you something about how the show runners are approaching her character. So for what it is, I really liked her in this episode, and we can see her now as a sort of guardian of her friends, brave and bold who doesn’t stutter when she has to fire a rock at a Timberwolf with her hooves.

Yer making me blush sugarcube.
This leads me to speak about an aspect of the episode that I am still struggling with. I said before how much I admired the 3D animation in the Timberwolves, and I really do, I think cell-shaded computer generator graphics are underrated, and we don’t see them often enough in animation. We see this in videogames mostly, like “Okami”, “Wind Waker”, “No More Heroes” or “Borderlands”, but not in animation, so seeing it here and to portray such vicious creatures like these wolves seemed like a good idea. The Timberwolves are some of the most complicatedly designed creatures in the whole show, if not the most. They are a bunch of twigs and sticks put together with what seems to be black magic, so animating that and make it look good is hard to do. We saw them in season 2, and to me they looked like string puppets, not very fluent, not particularly scary, and when they run they are downright laughable. In this episode they are smooth and menacing. They move like real animals, so seeing this otherworldly creature move like something that’s alive (when it actually shouldn’t be) is quite disturbing. I saw people complaining that the animation seems out of place, that it’s too smooth for this frame rate, and that CGI doesn’t belong in this show. I personally think this only enhances the feel of dread. These creatures don’t belong, they shouldn’t be there, and that only makes them scarier. That is something that worked real well for the villains in the original My Little Pony cartoon. I agree though that after looking at them for the third time I could see the seams in the animation, and that the mix of both the flash animation with the 3D rendering seems a bit out of place. It’s hard to master, and even though it’s not completely flawless I am applauding the effort, and the fact that it did work for me.

It didn’t work for me pal!
But now I have to talk about the stuff that I didn’t like, and sadly the first one has to be the biggest one of them all. You saw how I had nothing but praise for Applejack, right? Well, I can’t say the same about Spike. I said it already in the review, and I say it here. I don’t understand why they picked this character to make him so useless and incapable of doing anything right. This is the guy who helped save the Crystal Empire. He is capable of making the best picnics, and he can make vanilla flavoured cookies. You have any idea how difficult it is to make cookies? You don’t need to be a big fan of the show, or a very intelligent person, to know that Spike can fend for himself in everyday tasks. That’s why Twilight is always praising him for being her number one assistant. Then can someone explain to me why he is such a useless dweeb during this whole episode? He starts being adorably endearing, like when he unties the balloon and flies away behind it. But when he is making apple pies with Applejack and Granny Smith he is acting like a moron, knocking over everything and making a mess out of the kitchen. I know why they did this. They did this so Applejack has a reason to get rid of Spike, because had we have Spike acting like he usually does, like a competent character, Applejack wouldn’t want to give him away. She would have kept Spike because of how good he is. So his characterization here and I hate to bring this term up, is forced and out of character just for plot convenience. It doesn’t feel natural from what we have seen of the character so far, and I find it both insulting to the fans and the character itself. Bless Cathy Weseluck, she is great as Spike, she does a great job as him, but this isn’t the best episode to make people like Spike, and from what I’ve heard some Spike fans say, it doesn’t seem to be an episode they enjoyed either. So a character that was doing really great during this season got the short end of the stick. What else didn’t I like? I think the way they portrayed the Timberwolves was very pathetic. I always thought they were these creatures that lived in the forest and that feed off of whatever magic energy that keeps them together, but once you see how easy it is to defeat them, no matter how big they are, they go from threat to joke in just a second. Maybe they were going with that, but it’s confusing. Very cool design but terrible portrayal. The problems I have with them are nothing compared to what it is the biggest red glowing point of the episode: The writing. I didn’t like the writing. I said the character interactions were really good, and they felt very natural in the way the flowed. I am willing to give that to Polsky and Williams. However, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that what I was watching didn’t belong to this show. It’s not the whole deception plot, because we have had that before many times, like in “Owl’s well that ends well”, “Family appreciation day”, and the whole plot of “Hearts and hooves day” was pretty much based around a deception scheme. So it wasn’t that. It also wasn’t the focus, because we have had episodes where we have been following two characters and then moved to several and they turned out okay. It’s not the moral which I think it’s just alright too, you know the whole not overdoing your appreciation for someone’s favour. So what is it that I didn’t like of the writing? I will explain my problem with the following exercise. Take the script, and change the names of “Applejack” and “Spike” for “Squidward” and “Sponge Bob” respectively. Do you see where I’m going with this? It doesn’t feel like a My Little Pony episode, it feels like an idea that Merriwether Williams couldn’t get for Sponge Bob and she decided to use it here. But then, the story is by Dave Polsky, who has never worked in “Sponge Bob”, so who do I blame here? Do I blame Polsky for not finishing his script, or do I blame Williams for changing it? Or should I take this to Meghan McCarthy and ask her if this is what really happened? It may seem like I’m getting hell bent on a small aspect of the episode and, yeah, probably I am, but you have to understand that the whole thing depends on the balance between character interaction and plot development. Here the characters interact really well, but the plot doesn’t seem like it’s part of this show, it’s so out of place.

It seems like this review is all over the place, and maybe it is, but that’s exactly how I feel about the episode. It’s all over the place. The characters are great and they nailed each and every one of them, except Spike, so I can’t say that the characters are all perfectly portrayed. The tone is consistent and the moral is good, but the story feels alien and the pacing is very uneven, so I can’t give a perfect score in my book to that either. There are many jokes in this episode, and some of them are very funny (like Pinkie with the moustache, and Rarity eating the rotten pie) but others are flat and just feel forced (like anything involving Spike’s incompetence, or Twilight not paying attention to him when reading books). There are very powerful moments, like when Spike realizes AJ has saved his life, but there are also flat moments like when Spike says goodbye to Twilight. The moment when Applejack got her hoof trapped under the rocks was very engaging, but when Spike threw a rock at the Timberwolf and choked it to death was funnier than epic. And that’s pretty much what I feel towards the episode. It’s a constant mood whiplash. I go from “this moment is great” to “this moment is lame” in the bat on an eye, and that throws me off completely. So in the end the good and funny moments are very good and very funny, and the bad and lame moments are really bad and really lame. It’s a mixed bag, and in my opinion is way too balanced to say if the episode is good or bad in an objective way. In my own opinion, as annoying as the bad moments were they were not deal breakers for me, so the good moments compensated for it. I liked Applejack, I liked the character interactions, and I liked Rarity and Pinkie Pie. That’s the good I take from this episode.

Overall, it’s not the worst episode of the show but it walks that fine line between bad and good in a very wobbly way, and it ends up falling into neither the good side nor the bad side. If you are an Applejack fan, or want to make people like Applejack, watch it. If you like Rarity then you definitely must watch it, especially for her thespian acting. If you want more Pinkie Pie randomness give it a watch. And if you want people to hate Spike with a vengeance and forget how good he was during season 2 and the beginning of season 3, this is the perfect episode for that.

So, this is it for 2012. What a year, eh? I don't have much else to say but, thank you guys for following me here. Thank you for your input, thank you for your comments, your visits, thanks for making me feel like I am giving something worth reading to the fandom, and thanks for being so tolerating with my opinions and for voicing yours so well in the comments. Thank you for being there for me. You have been great. See you all in 2013.

- Defining moment: That apple pie eating moment. Never has eating a rotten piece of food being so tense, disgusting and hilarious as this one. More of that please.

- Moral: Don’t be overly thankful when people make favours to you, and don’t go over the top when telling people to stop acting like they are acting.


  1. It's not just Squidward and SpongeBob, the problem is that this plot has already been done in an uncountable number of cartoons, and it seemed like it was shoved into MLP without actually thinking if the plot would work or not.

    Loved your final graph. Perfectly summarized my own feeling about the episode as well.

  2. I have to agree with you on this one. This was definitely not the best episode in the season, although I can say that it was at least better than The Crystal Empire and One Bad Apple.

    Here are my thoughts on this episode.

    My first issue is how mishandled Spike's character is. We never see him being like this in some of the previous episodes. Not to mention he's Twilight's #1 assistant. So how come, in this episode, we seen him as being extremely clumsy and incompetent at doing the works he did? You could make the excuse that he might not have been good at doing farmwork, but even that, it doesn't change the fact that his character was exaggerated. It would have worked better if he actually does know how to do all the work and make the problem stems from Applejack being unconfortable in doing all the work for her.

    My second issue is that the Noble Dragon Code was poorly explained and integrated. We see him in the farm where he shows his Spike the Dragon Code that seems to convince us that it was all made up. Okay. But when Applejack goes to the library to talk to Twilight about Spike, she said that the Code is very important to a dragon, which seems to imply that every dragons have their own code, including Spike. This problem would have been avoided if they make it so Twilight wouldn't take the Code seriously and it wouldn't make the code seem like an ass-pull.

    With those issues said, what do I liked about this episode? I really liked the characterization of all the Mane Six. . I especially liked all of their interactions too, such as during when Rainbow Dash was talking about her self-insert fanfiction to Applejack. Merriwether has improved a lot with the way she writes the characters. I also liked the humor too, especially the Pinkie mustache.

    So, despite a few issues, I still think this was an enjoyable episode. It's not better than Merriwether's other Season 3 episode, Wonderbolts Academy (which is my second favorite episode of the season), but it definitely beats all her Season 2 episodes.

  3. I think this episode has helped me nail down Polsky's approach to writing. With the exception of Over a Barrel, he likes to introduce certain aspects of characters that we didn't know before and use that as the entire premise of an episode (Pinkie Sense, the Legend of the Mirror Pool, and now the Dragon Code). The premise for this episode feels so odd to me. Why would Spike have a moral code that could completely sabotage his role as Twilight's assistant? He's been with Twilight pretty much all his life and now we learn that he could just leave it all the moment he gets rescued and most devote his life to someone else? How often did he think this was gonna come into play? I mean, it's not like Spike is in constant need to have his life saved or anything like that...

    I'm the kind of fan that thinks that if the episode stuck to continuity from episode to episode, it would really suck. It would be very limiting for the writers if they weren't allowed to try new things with certain characters. To me, the only continuity on the show that is truly "untouchable" is the pilot episode because it's what got the Mane Six together in the first place and defined them for who they are. However, it's one thing to ignore continuity and another to just pull things out of your ass and apply them to characters with little regard in how said thing characterizes them. What I'm getting at is that it's definitely very grating how Spike gets to be so incompetent at everything he does in this episode when he's supposed to be a great assistant.

    I think it's mandatory for all comedy series' to at one point tackle a story I like to call the "I am now forever in you debt" story, which is one of the most hackneyed setups for any comedy ever (right next to the "nice guy, jerky friend, impatient girlfriend" dynamic). You could pull it off today if you bring something new or interesting to that premise, but the episode doesn't do that, which is a shame, because this is a show that has occasionally taken all too familiar setups and making them its own.

    Working with Polsky seems to have brought out the funny in Williams, which has been sorely missing from her writing in the series so far. Many of the gags feel like something out of Spongebob, which I wouldn't say it's a bad thing, it's just a different style.

    This being the second episode in which Williams collaborates with another writer, this still feels like a Polsky scripts with a lot of Williams sprinkled all over it. With the benefit of hindsight, I can say that Putting Your Hoof Down is more a Fullerton episode, only with Williams' print all over it.

    The funniest gags of the entire episode, for me, had very little to do with Spike or AJ. I believe that comedy has never been the strongsuit for these two characters. They only work in comedy when they're bouncing off another character, such as Twilight or Rarity.

    I really liked the lesson at the end. Sometimes a friend can unconditonally do something nice for you and you don't have to expect anything in return. That's the sign of a true friend. Although, I am a bit surprised that there was no letter to the princess.

    I too feel it's a shame that Spike was poorly written in this episode, especially how I've come to really appreciate Cathy Weseluck, who's always a riot at conventions.

    Overall, the episode feels like a string of funny gags tied together with a bare minimun plot. I will probably watch it again just for the jokes.

  4. I pretty agree with the review pal. I can't believe how Dave, Merriwether and Meghan handled Spike in this episode.... It's the first episode that disappoint me since Mare do well... I really feel bad for this. I just hope that is only the Call of the Cutie and the MDW of the S3 (and this is another thing I DON'T ACCEPT since the season has ONLY 12 EPISODES FOR GOODNESS SICK), because if isn't.... the series it's starting to die prematurely....

    Faust... you've abandoned your series.... you've abandoned us... are you happy now?

  5. First of all, I agree that the tone is all over the place and did the episode did leave me feeling like it was cobbled together from contradicting viewpoints. It was a disappointment, but I have to say a few things against your viewpoint. Why? Because deep down, I love a good debate.

    While the clumsiness of Spike was annoying at first, I realised, Spike has only ever done one thing, help Twilight with her books, spells etc etc. He's only been limited to one environment. When he's with Twilight, he's in his comfort zone because that's what he has always done. Doing things like making pies and yard work are not exactly his skills and, to my knowledge has never done them. Have you ever been put into tasks with no previous experience or skill? Sure, you wouldn't be stumbling into prat falls like Spike, but you'd be pretty fucking clueless, especially if you've only ever done a set of tasks in one environment. Not everyone has the common sense or intiative to get straight into a task and do it perfectly. Some times it ends up pretty horribly!

    Also, you say Spike saved the Empire, not without help from Cadence he didn't. Just look at him run down the stairs in the Crystal Empire episode. He looks incredibly worried to be doing what he's doing and he doesn't look heroic. Apart from when he's with Twilight, he always seems like a bumbling character to me. Professional and willing, but bumbling.

    Other than that, I liked the out-of-place design of the timberwolves and individual interactions between the chcaracters but it is a contender for worst of the season for me. Just because of how muddled it is. Does this mean I'll abandon the series because of this like Raffaele seems to be contemplating (Seriously dude, "Faust why have you forsaken us?" Grow up! There's been crap episodes in all the seasons including season 1 which she was involved a lot in. This goes for any of you who thinks this show has always been perfect until now. Besides, Lauren is free to do what she wants, I hope she gets Galaxy Girls released some time in the future so we can have another show for the disenfranchised bronies who want to leave the herd because they think the show is crap now and don't know the difference between pandering and shoutouts! Sorry fandom rant over), of course I won't. With two writers on board, especially two as out of place and contrasting as Polsky and Williams, I knew this wouldn't turn out great. If you want to leave the herd because of this, fine. The gate's there, just go! Sorry to get this way but the way the fandom has been reacting to this seasons lately is really pissing me off!

    1. Your argument for Spike is interesting, but it does not work. Spike is also a socialite, which has been shown from the very first episode and many others. Spike has a more active social life than Twilight, gets out more and mingles with important ponies. He has also helped Rarity with many tasks before and when he was a lot more nervous. Changing the environment of what he does and how he works should not influence his character.

    2. That's an interesting take, but it doesn't answer for all the dumbing down they did with Spike. He's been established as a good cook - good enough to help the Cakes with Celestia's banquet, in fact. No matter how nervous you are, you don't "unlearn" things like that. I can accept him being bad at the other farmwork stuff, but at cooking? That's a stupid, unforgivable botch on the writers' part, pure and simple.

    3. Well granted I haven't watched every single episode back to front and taken in all of Spike's character, I just think that you can justify a lot of things if you have a decent enough argument for it (If someone made a decent defense for Limp Bizkit, anything is possible on here). I know I can't justify it completely, because clearly Williams either doesn't get the characters or does but just wants to do things her way, but what I described is a believable personality trait and bringing anything believable into a piece of media is usually well-received but clearly the character's previous interactions with the other cast members negates that. I just hope this episode doesn't make people turn away from this show. There are people who are doing just that, not because they're bored of the show, but because they think the show sucks now and the fandom is dying. What's your take on that?

    4. Turning away from the show because of this is really silly. I still believe the creators are still willing to listen to us and while they are we should give them constructive criticism. Tell them that we're disappointed in the writing and that we would like them to take better care when writing the characters, as they did previously. Also tell them that the season wasn't that bad, because all-in-all it wasn't, except for a few things we hope they will improve on. If we can do this Season 4 may turn out to be the best season.
      But to either bash everything and like nothing of the season, or to like everything because you're too afraid to criticize wont help the fandom or creators of the show.

  6. I pretty much agree with everything in this review. The episode was all over the place to the point it became jarring to watch. It's funny how Spike episodes always end up dividing opinions on him even further (Dragon Quest, Owl's Well That Ends Well, Spike at Your Service), while episodes that focus on another character, most often Twilight, make him shine like nothing else. Crystal Empire is the best example of this. It's almost as if the show itself tries to tell the writers that Spike works best as a supporting character to Twilight, and works best in the spotlight when he doesn't start out in the spotlight (ala Crystal Empire). Gives me mixed feelings, because I like Spike. The search for the best Spike episode is still on, so far, Spike fans are best off with "The Crystal Empire".

    Another thing I'd like to note is the Timber Wolves. I suppose it is kind of hit or miss, but for me the shift in animation was really jarring. It clashed very badly with the rest of the episode and it really didn't look good as a result. The regeneration scene was potentially the most creepy villainous scene in the series (beating even Chrysalis' revelation), but it looks so out of place, and the wolves are even more of a joke than the afformentioned bug queen, it's hard to take them serious. But while Chrysalis at least looked as if she belonged in MLP, the Timber Wolves just looked bad. I understand your point of "not belonging" adding to the creepiness, but I don't feel that's the case. To me, they didn't feel otherwordly, they just felt like a clash of animation-styles ruining the scene.

  7. In retrospective, the problem with Spike is not that he's clumsy, it's that he's not aware that he's clumsy and is actually doing more harm than good.

  8. There is one thing I felt this episode had that you didn't mention.
    There have been episodes worse than this one (Dragon Quest comes to mind) but not one
    episode in the entire series had what this episode has. I felt this episode had an air of cruelty to it, and to me that goes against anything My Little Pony, regardless of the generation. There is a difference between worst and least favorite, and in my opinion this is the worst episode of the season and my least favorite of the entire series.

    1. Feeling Pinkie-Keen was way more cruel than this episode. Waaaaay more. Which is why it's still my most-hated episode of the entire series.

    2. I agree Feeling Pinkie-Keen was more cruel.

    3. Agreed with Draggy and Anonymous. But then, consider who wrote "FPK"...yeah, perhaps there are a few people on the writing staff who need some basic lessons in how to do an MLP episode, hm? Stuff like "teach Dave Polsky to not write unnecessarily cruel scenes into a cartoon for little girls" or "the characters of MLP:FiM 101 for Merriweather Williams".

  9. *Sees diagram at the end of the review*

    ...Are you okay James?

    No, just kidding, I see what you mean. I don't quite get your point about the writing being alien, though. Do you mean that the plot does not flow naturally from the characters' personnalities?


    1. It's more like the storytelling takes one in the daddy bites because it doesn't mix character and plot. The story is about Spike, but this Spike we are given is nothing like what we've seen for the rest of the series.

      It's like every time Williams writes and episode doesn't take into account how the characters are in the previous ones.

    2. Okay, got it, and fair enough.


  10. Since I pretty much liked everything you did, save some of the characterization, I'll share my thoughts on the bad.

    I felt this episode was a lot like Mysterious Mare Do Well. In MDW, Rainbow Dashs unlikable egotism was amplified and made the defining characteristic. In Spike at your Service, Spikes klutzy demeanor was amplified and made the defining characteristic. In MDW, the world suddenly has all sorts of buildings and technology, such as a hydroelectric dam or the construction equipment. In SAYS, we get the CG timber wolves. By the way, if they were trying to make the wolves more menacing by having their animation style clash with the rest of the world, they certainly hindered themselves by making them act like Wile E. Coyote. In MDW, we have the main characters, save RBD, conspire a plot to stop the obnoxious behavior from their friend in a non friendly and underhanded way. In SAYS, we have the main characters, save Spike, conspire a plot to stop the obnoxious behavior from their friend in a underhanded way. It's rather odd that Applejack of all ponies would chose to lie to her friend about such a thing.

    I think the whole problem with the episode was the plot. The concept of Spikes Dragon Code alone introduces so many problems with the show canon that it's almost impossible to write around the holes it makes without sacrificing the quality of the episode or some continuity. We saw this by the fact that Spike was made a buffoon simply to give AJ a reason to want him to go. It was also why Twilight ignored the character that just a few episodes prior she was talking about how she would always be there for. It certainly isn't the worst episode we've ever had, but like Mare Do Well, it's my least favorite of the season and I don't plan to watch the full episode again any time soon.

  11. You know, I´ve been re-viewing some old episodes and the very first thing SPike does is falling from a stair. And it seems every time he´s on screen he is either tripping or falling or dropping things so him being clumsy it doesn´t seem so far out of place for me. it actually feels pretty much in character.