Monday, 17 September 2018

Episode review: S8E21: "A Rockhoof and a Hard Place"

"And polish up the handle of the big front door!"
There are just a few episodes left now until we reach the end of Season 8, at least for those sticking to the weekly schedule. It's certainly been an interesting ride, and I'll try to make the time to do an end-of-season roundup (possibly in audio as well) sometime this autumn. This episode was written by Kaita Mpambara, who acquitted himself quite well on his debut with "Horse Play". How would this tale of a Pillar fare?

Well... it was okay, I guess. For me, this was one of those episodes that flickers and sparks quite a bit, but never quite catches fire to burn with a steady flame. Part of this may be because I just don't find Rockhoof himself all that interesting. It's not just the fact that we don't have several seasons' backstory – nor do we for the Student Six – but perhaps more because he's a somewhat predictable hero in a land of rather more interesting ones.

He did make me sit up and take notice, though, when he asked Twilight to imprison him in a statue – like pre-reformation Discord, but this time by choice. That was quite a statement about finding it hard to fit in the modern world – and a more interesting one than 99% of those old ponyfics about Luna doing the same! It also led to some very watchable agonising from Twilight (that sounds horrible, I know!) as she wrestled with her conscience over it.

Wet mane Rarity? What is this, 2012?
However, much of the lead-up to this point was really a one-joke story, with Rockhoof trying and failing at various things. In its way, it reminded me of the CMC doing much the same thing, albeit for different reasons, way back in S1. This didn't always help the pacing, either – Rockhoof's description of the battle with the Ursa Major felt a little too long, especially when you add up both halves. One good thing about this section: the self-aware lampshading of how odd it is for hippogriffs to use ships.

It was, admittedly, nice to see what the other Pillars (and famous novelist Stygian!) have been up to since we last encountered them. These segments were variously successful: the aforementioned naval bit was fun, and I liked the point about constellations changing, though they seem to do so awfully fast in this universe! Mistmane's brief segment was nice as well, though Flash Magnus's was a little dull and Somnambula's slightly unbelievable – AJ doesn't strike me as a meditation sort of mare!

Matt Cowlrick's Scottish accent for Rockhoof was reasonable, though I don't think anyone familiar with the real thing would mistake it for a native one; there were a couple more little slips than there are when Trevor Devall voices Fancy Pants. Still, a Celtic background fits quite well, and a wild, northern warrior past seems quite appropriate given Rockhoof's importance to Yona in this episode – that warm relationship was perhaps my favourite thing in the ep.

Yona proved surprisingly frightened of millipedes
The episode did have some very nice touches of humour, starting with that wooden apple. I doubt everyone will like Pinkie's surfing, but it made me laugh and that's good enough for me. Gallus's successful attempt to gull Rockhoof into believing there's no homework in Theory and Defence Against the Dark Arts of Friendship (might have been "Defensive Friendship"; I couldn't tell), but the more worldly Spike not buying it for a moment.

"A Rockhoof and a Hard Place" was something of a mixed bag in my book. (No, I don't know why I have a bag in my book.) It gave a bit of depth to Rockhoof's character and did the same for Yona's along the way, while providing a nicely Pony "everyone has a place" moral. It had some nice jokes and squeezed a fair bit into its running time, but it was too bitty and repetitive to click fully. Watchable and likeable, but no classic.

Best quote: Twilight: "Maybe they [hippogriffs] just like cruises?"

  • Excellent, show-appropriate moral
  • Gives Rockhoof (and Yona) some character development
  • Twilight's struggle with Rockhoof's request
  • Pretty funny in places
  • Uneven pacing, with too much repetition
  • Rockhoof is still one of the less interesting recurring characters
  • Not an especially memorable episode


  1. Pretty ho hum episode in my opinion, but the whole Rockhoof wanting to be turned into a statue felt a bit too much like suicide for my liking.

    1. I don't know... we already know from Discord that beings imprisoned in stone remain conscious -- though that may just make it more horrifying! I'd have liked Rockhoof to have some sort of (magical?) escape button if he changed his mind, though.

  2. "...odd it is for hippogriffs to use ships."

    Cargo! (Or cannons.)

    I loved Yona in this episode. Also the little exchange between Twi and Spike after she gives/makes up a position/title for Rockhoof. I think she's getting the hang of being Equestrian royalty.

    1. Cargo! (Or cannons.)

      I misread that at first as "Cargo! (For cannons.)", which worried me a bit!