Monday, 28 May 2018

Episode review: S8E11: "Molt Down"

Stone scale-covered Spike looking glum next to a happier-looking Smolder
Now I want to know about Smolder's brother
After a slightly shaky start, Season 8 seems to be on a bit of a roll at the moment, with only the unimpressive "Non-Compete Clause" interrupting a sequence of good-to-great episodes. This week, we had Josh Haber's first ep this season, as well as the prospect of a full-on Spike-isode. Those used to be a bad sign, but since "Gauntlet of Fire" the little dragon has come into his own. As for this episode... was actually pretty great! I had been spoiled on the fact that Spike would get wings, because quite frankly I'd have had to try quite hard to avoid it. You know what people on EqD, and indeed the internet in general, are like. Still, I knew Twilight was going to ascend way back when, and that didn't stop me enjoying that episode. Knowing the big reveal this time didn't stop me enjoying this ep, either.

I can't say it was exactly enjoyable to see Spike going through Dragon Puberty, especially those itchy stone scales – too reminiscent of when I had shingles years ago! Nevertheless, it was pretty well done. Having Smolder around to talk to Spike (if not always terribly helpfully) was what truly made it work; great as the ponies are, they can't really understand what it's like to be a dragon in the way Smolder does.

Talking of non-dragons, a nice surprise this week was that Zecora finally got a substantial part in an episode again. She didn't actually do a great deal other than mix up potions, get deaf and – eventually – get attacked by the roc, but she was still pleasant company. Rarity was amusing, and Tabitha St. Germain must have had a blast with some of her lines. Twilight was slightly snarky at times, especially about Celestia's apparently perfect skin!

Rarity and Zecora (with clothes pegs on nose) in Zecora's hut
That expression reminds me of "Simple Ways" somehow
Let's talk about that roc. Although it sounds like an overgrown hippogriff, it's clearly an actual threat, and it's about time the Everfree Forest had some of those again. I still mourn the loss of direct addressing of its non-pony-managed nature, but I'll take what I can get. It also presented Twilight with a reason to shoot lasers from her face. Still, this was Spike's episode, and it was entirely appropriate that he was the one who truly saved the day.

I quite liked the "transformation" scene. After the stone scales had settled down to being red and purple, they didn't actually look too bad – but it was still a bit of a relief when Spike started glowing like the Doctor when regeneration is imminent. Nothing quite so dramatic for Spike, just a brief spell in a stone(?) "cocoon" and then the big "wings!" reveal. The design of those is satisfyingly normal, if you see what I mean.

Lots of nice continuity in this episode – unsurprisingly, "Secret of My Excess" was a significant source, but we also had the (all too brief) return of Peewee and even a quick line from Rarity about the terrors of Zecora's shampoo. FanOfMostEverything has pointed out that Spike thinking he was going to be kicked out by Twilight could also be considered a callback: to Spike's encounter with Sombra's dark-magic door of nightmares in "The Crystal Empire".

Pinkie had a fun cameo; her "shouting closet" line was golden. Running public tours of active schools seems like a rather strange thing to do, but possibly my thinking that is just a sad reflection on our human society. Other than the "whispering then shouting" joke being really rather overused, there wasn't anything much I truly disliked about this episode. Time will tell how Spike's new wings may change him, but for now I'd consider this another very good 22 minutes of FiM.

Spike, flying on right, attempts to taunt the gigantic roc to the left
Shades of "Dragonshy" here. Ish
Best quote: Pinkie: "Is this the shouting closet?!"

  • Lots of character development for Spike
  • Some interesting, if slightly worrying, worldbuilding
  • Finally, another significant Zecora role!
  • Some excellent callbacks
  • Actual danger in the Everfree Forest for once
  • All that shouting got a little tiring on occasion


  1. Another great episode, and one which is making me get a lot more on board with this season.

    I have to wonder, however: Smolder is clearly significantly older than Spike, and yet is still pretty much a teenager. However, Spike is doing a lot of regular work on the school Smolder attends. If they weren't ponies (or dragon in this case), this dynamic would be extremely weird.

    I also wonder if they will change Spike in some way if he moves through the EQG mirror.

  2. Yeah. As someone who watched the episodes when they leaked, I expected to see this. I loved every single one of the leaked episodes, with only NCC being a massive dud. I expected for those episodes getting the kind of reception they are getting.

    Regarding this episode... You know, I suspect that Haber realized that giving such an important episode like Newbie Dash, which is a very important episode for a character's development (in this case Rainbow Dash) to a person who never wrote anything in his life before was not a good idea. Newbie Dash was a big disappointment for me, between being an anticlimatic conclusion of a story arc lasted 6 years and also having a not so good moral. Infact it was one of my biggest letdowns that pulled the S6 as one of my least favorite seasons... So this time it seems Haber wanted to take on an important episode personally, and the result was... Infact the exact opposite of Newbie Dash. The whole plotline as well Spike's evolution and fear was very well handeld and so was the moral of never fearing of being abandoned only because you're growing up. Even thought unlike Newbie Dash, this wasn't exactly part of a years long story arc, the development of Spike here was well done, I give Haber my kudos for this. Between It Ain't the Mane thing About You, Shadow Play and Molt Down, he definitely himself back in track in terms of writing.

  3. Yaknow, I call the roc one of the bigger disappointments of this episode, no pun intended. They had a roc -- a ROC! -- to play with, to add to the plethora of Equestria's fascinating mythological creatures... and they went, "Oh, it's a big bird? Yeah, just do that." There's nothing at all interesting about its design. They could have done ANYTHING with it. I mean, the chimera had a tiger head, that was something!

    Also, I disagree on the wings, I can't shake the feeling that there's some kind of tiny bat stapled to his back. Likely just a factor of newness, but, yeah, ugh.

    I will agree the shouting got old. Which is why Rarity's sudden-onset deafness was a terrible gag. Not only is it a contrivance to... what, make sure Rarity's there to be in danger too? Because Spike doesn't care enough about Zecora to save her otherwise? But not only is it that, it's needlessly doubling-down on something that was already happening. And it just doesn't make any sense.

    Overall, I was horrendously disappointed by this episode. I wouldn't rank it much higher than Spike at Your Service, and then only because it's about a change to Spike that's likely to show up in future episodes.

  4. Wait, do universities in the UK not do tours for interested high schoolers and their families when class is in session? I went on at least three college tours my senior year of high school.

    (Also what happened to the OpenID option for leaving comments?)

    1. Oh, uni open days happen all the time, yes. But the one in the episode felt more like a tourist attraction. I may also have been subconsciously influenced by the fact that I'm British, and we tend to use "school", "college" and "university" to refer to different things. "Going to college" and "going to university" are not usually interchangeable in BrEng, for example.

      (Blogger disabled that option due to low usage. All previous OpenID comments will be anonymised, it seems. I'm a bit disappointed, but I don't think I have any choice.)

    2. Many large and famous universities offer free walking tours for whoever is interested, often student led and during working hours. I have gone on a few (MIT, Harvard, Cambridge, and Oxford), and it is a truly fascinating experience.

    3. Actually, that's quite right. Not sure why I didn't think about it, but it's true. My comment about it didn't change the episode rating, so I'll leave it in, but the point is accepted.