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  • 38 weeks
    Season Eight Episode Reviews: Molt Down

    This week is a Spike episode? What a re-”molt”-ing development this is!

    Let's look at “Molt Down,” the episode that will surely be perfectly normal and have no long-lasting repercussions on a character's appearance.

    Read More

    2 comments · 502 views
  • 39 weeks
    Season Eight Episode Reviews: Break Up Break Down

    I dread going into this week's episode. For today, we discuss matters of the heart. Romance, love, heartbreak, and all that rot. Which means we run right into the most loathsome of all fandom constructs, the kind of thing that destroys friendships and leaves the most brilliant of minds curled up helplessly in a corner, foaming from the mouth:

    SHIPPING.

    Read More

    6 comments · 309 views
  • 40 weeks
    Season Eight Episode Reviews: Non-Compete Clause

    We've had a string of good episodes the last few weeks. Whether it be shapeshifting seaponies, an actual Celestia episode, or discovering Starlight's dark phase, we've had lots of fun and plenty of laughs.

    Today's episode is about Applejack and Rainbow Dash competing.

    The good times are over.

    Read More

    7 comments · 348 views
  • 41 weeks
    Season Eight Episode Reviews: The Parent Map

    Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone who cares about that! What better way to spend the day than watching a cartoon about horses dealing with their mommy/daddy issues? Well, tough, because that's what we're doing. This is “The Parent Map.”

    Read More

    4 comments · 270 views
  • 42 weeks
    Season Eight Episode Reviews: Horse Play

    So hey, it's a new episode. Surely nothing to be excited about. Just another standard episode of a cartoon pony show.

    Only it's a CELESTIA EPISODE!

    Prepare for extra spicy biased scoring as we look at Best Princess' newest episode, “Horse Play!”

    Read More

    5 comments · 321 views
May
26th
2018

Season Eight Episode Reviews: Molt Down · 5:47pm May 26th, 2018

This week is a Spike episode? What a re-”molt”-ing development this is!

Let's look at “Molt Down,” the episode that will surely be perfectly normal and have no long-lasting repercussions on a character's appearance.


TECHNICAL SPECS:

Season: 8
Episode: 11
Written By: Josh Haber
First Aired: May 26, 2018


SUMMARY:

While helping Rarity pick feathers from his former pet, Spike comes down with a swollen red scale. When he awakens the next day, his face is covered with the pulsing, painful things. Not only that, but his voice keeps shifting in volume, his fire burps have increased significantly in power, and he's got a weird odor that refuses to leave. As it turns out, he's beginning to molt...which means that, per dragon tradition, it's time for him to leave home and either live a life of solitude, or be devoured by predators. Can Spike make it to the end of the day alive? And does it have anything to do with the fifteen thousand Red Bulls he consumed that night he had to re-shelve the library twelve times in a row to satisfy a drunken and power-crazed Twilight?

(Look, it was either Red Bull or a M.A. Larson joke. And quite frankly, the latter has been played to death in this fandom by now.)


REVIEW:

There was an episode long ago, back in the glory days of the fandom, where the birds were singing and I still took months to update anything. That episode, “Secret of My Excess,” had Spike go through an accelerated adolescence for an entire episode, only to revert him back at the end through the power of the fourth-creepiest ship this fandom has ever embraced. I did not like that episode very much. Six seasons later, we get “Mold Down,” a second stab at doing a puberty analogy with Spike. And this time, while still not perfect, things work a whole lot better.

Molting is a perfectly natural process of shedding skin once the creature has outgrown the outer skin. Granted, it typically doesn't result in the subject growing a pair of wings out of nowhere, but it can perhaps be assumed that the wings were developing the entire time and their readiness to emerge is what triggered Spike's body to begin shedding. At least we didn't see Spike eating his old skin for the nutrients.

Even outside of “Secret of My Excess,” the show has addressed adolescence before, most famously (and broadly) with Cutie Marks supposedly representing a girl's “blossoming” into adulthood. Spike's first stab, on the other hand, spent more time on some of the physical aspects (namely getting bigger and your voice changing overnight) – since Spike is a boy in a girl's cartoon, however, he also got to be hit with the Stupid Stick until he was a mindless rampaging monster. “Molt Down” also focuses on the physical changes, but goes for a much broader approach. Spike's flaring scales are a perfect stand-in for acne, his uncontrollable pitches in volume represents the voice breaking, and of course, there comes the BO. And instead of turning into a monster, Spike is scared, confused, and feeling humiliated by the changes his body is going through.

He should count his lucky stars, though. He only has to endure this for a thirty-minute episode. Real people have to spend years getting through that hell. Although we didn't have giant birds trying to eat us, so I guess it's a bit of a trade-off.

The only one of the students to have a real speaking role this episode is Smolder. Her role is to provide some quick exposition about the molt while also aggravating Spike's fears. This is the first time any of the students have been used on an individual basis, and that's something that should be happening a lot more often. It works perfectly here, with Smolder providing a more authentic look at dragon culture and physiology versus the pony-raised Spike. Dragons kicking out their young also seems to fit how the adult dragons in “Dragon Quest” pretty much let the teenagers do whatever. Having to survive on your own from a young age, when your scent is attracting monsters to eat you and driving loves ones away, would twist anyone into a strength-obsessed isolationist.

...Still, dragon parents are dicks. Hopefully contact with ponies will introduce dragons to deodorant, thereby saving families everywhere.

So the overall theme was agreeable to me. I generally liked the characters used, including another rare appearance of Zecora, and the humor was mostly spot-on. There were, however, three things that really bugged me:

1. The episode is loaded with continuity callbacks and references, but they aren't really used well. We get reminded about Pee Wee and see him again...for five seconds, after which he's gone. Character names and previous events are thrown around like they are a joke in and of themselves, when in reality they just feel like hollow repeats of things that happened before. The only callback that was really needed was to “Secret of My Excess,” and that was to establish that the molt and “greed-induced growth” are separate things.

2. Rarity's hearing loss feels really contrived. We've seen ponies hang around phoenixes and their feathers before, and yet Rarity has a sudden hearing loss from them? Was she shoving the things into her ear canal? It's only there to give Rarity a reason to be captured by the Roc at the end – otherwise, it services nothing other than giving Rarity a reason to shout at everyone.

3. Spike grows a pair of wings this episode. I have no problem with him sprouting some wings – it was becoming increasingly weird to see every other dragon have wings but him. I don't even mind that he figured out flying almost immediately. After all, wings are apparently natural for his species, whereas Twilight went from a unicorn to an Alicorn and had to learn how to manipulate something completely foreign to her. The problem I have is...well, this should have happened sooner. We are quite possibly in the twilight time of FiM. It takes the writers, on average, at least half a season from when a major change occurs to catch up and do something with it. Spike's really not going to have much time to enjoy those wings, and the writers won't have much time to do anything with what should be a HUGE update to his character.


CONCLUSION:

This is a great Spike episode, making it a good episode overall. I enjoyed Spike's ordeal, and timing aside, it's nice to see him with a pair of wings at last. I could have done without Rarity's subplot in particular, but that's a fairly small blemish on an otherwise good picture. Fine episode, enjoyed watching, would like to watch again.


Next time, the CMC go back to school. Only they were already in school, but...whatever.

(We're almost out of leak country at last. Finally, content I haven't already seen!)

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Comments ( 2 )
PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

All I have to say is Scootaloo will never fly >:V

Also, I can't believe there's only been one reaction blog so far. c.c

The Peewee bit was especially contrived, since it really didn't otherwise contribute much to the episode aside from the ill-conceived excuse for Rarity's hearing loss (is she supposed to be allergic to phoenixes or something?). Like seriously, it mostly only served as bad reminder of what a wasted opportunity Peewee was, and how he was himself seemingly written out as an afterthought when the staff wanted to do an unrelated episode about Spike being bad at taking care of the M6's pets. I'm not sure I really cared for the excuse that Spike had to let Peewee go because phoenixes aren't meant to be domesticated, like seriously, have we also forgotten Celestial has her own pet phoenix, not that we've ever really seen Philomena again since S1.

Still, I can maybe sorta set all that aside, since arguably seeing a now more grown up Peewee did at least work for a visual indication of the passage of time, something this show rarely ever does, and so in a round about way served as a prelude for spikes onw impending maturation. However, I can't help but think Spike growing up in this episode was also a bit of a missed opportunity. I mean they had him get all incased in a magical stone cocoon, but upon emerging the only difference in his design was that he's now got some less than convincing wings pasted to the sides of his seeming otherwise unaltered character model. Just makes me feel like the show is halfassing the transition and playing things too safe. I mean, we've got smolder now as kind of nice happy middle ground between Spike baby design and the "teenaged" design of Garble and company.

As for being to late in the series to make a difference, I suppose there's some truth to that, though I was under the impression it had already been confirmed that at least one more season is still in the works before Hasbro hits the inevitable reboot switch. That said, it's sorta only natural for a most shows to make there biggest changes right before the end. Sometimes as a desperate grab for ratings, but also because an impending end means they don't have to be as concerned about inadvertent fan backlash. Although again, that just makes me all the more disappointed that Spikes "growing-up" redesign is such a lazy slap dash. Still, it's at worst a minor aesthetic change in an otherwise harmlessly fun episode, even if we never get any meaningful follow up character development for Spike.

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