Season 3, Episodes 9-10
Season 3 Episode 9: Spike at Your Service
In five words: Spike contradicts all previous logic.
Premise: After Applejack saves his life, Spike insists on acting as Applejack’s servant as payback and constantly messes things up in the process for some reason.
Detailed run-through, I guess:
I’m sorry for sounding so reluctant here. It’s just that this is the least excited I’ve ever been to analyze a MLP episode, because this episode… well, it’s one of very few episodes of the show that I outright dislike. So bear with me here, OK? I’ll try to get back to the good stuff as soon as I can.
No, I am not going to skip this episode, as tempting as it may be.
To start this episode, Twilight Sparkle gives Spike a day off because she has a huge set of books Celestia wanted her to read over the weekend. Spike excitedly goes outside and goes through a long list of things he’s wanted to do… except it’s a very short list of simple tasks like smelling his feet, which he gets through quickly. At this point, Spike probably feels lacking in identity other than being “Twilight Sparkle’s sidekick”, and while plenty of episodes explore this aspect of his character in earnest depth, this one uses it to lead up to a storm of annoying contrivances.
Now, the leadup to the contrivances isn’t so bad. After having exhausted his list, Spike decides to board a hot air balloon and chases after it in a well-animated sequence with some good slapstick humor, grabs onto it, and lands in the Everfree Forest where he’s chased by some Timberwolves, whose animation is done through CGI and thus much more fluid and rich than most of the show. Unlike Putting Your Hoof Down, the episode I had been the harshest on thus far, this episode at least gives us some time of regular good old MLP before it devolves into “uh, what?” territory.
Applejack does something cool, which is defeating all those Timberwolves by throwing rocks with style, saving Spike’s life in the process. This is where Spike decides that he owes Applejack his life in return. You know what’s weird about this decision? Even though this episode is a certified Spike Episode™, the viewer has absolutely no way to understand or relate to his thought process. Everyone in the show is completely baffled that he is now dedicating his life to serving Applejack, and normally when an episode focuses on a character, the viewer is supposed to feel for that character. But here, Spike is making an abrupt decision out of nowhere even though his life has been at stake plenty of times before. I feel like this is a blatant remnant of what I’ve heard this episode was originally supposed to be about: Spike deciding he owes Rarity his life, and we all know how he feels about Rarity. But I never cared much for mulling over what could have been when analyzing MLP episodes; rather, my focus is on what was.
Not shown: the Timberwolves regenerating.
Applejack: Thanks for walking me home, Spike. That was mighty kind of you. But now I have some chores that need tending to, so… see you later.
Spike: What chores? I’ll do them.
Applejack: That’s sweet, but you don’t have—
Spike: It’s the least I can do. You saved my life. I need to repay the favor.
Applejack: Shoot, Spike! That’s what friends do for each other. You don’t need to repay the favor.
Normally in this show, the characters’ motives are believable and understandable, even if misguided. But here, Spike is deciding to do all of Applejack’s chores, even though characters have saved each other’s lives plenty before without such absurd degrees of payback. It doesn’t make sense for Spike to be doing this… unless he somehow has a crush on Applejack. The more I think about it, the more obvious this episode’s original intent was. I think the original plot of Spike serving Rarity was deemed too mean-spirited, so it was repurposed into… this.
It’s also weird that Spike is now much more clumsy than he ever was when helping with Twilight Sparkle’s daily chores. While he talks with Applejack, he spills a bunch of apples from the barrel, and it only gets worse from there. Maybe he’s not used to doing farming chores instead of organizing books and papers and quills? Still, I feel that Spike’s intelligence in this episode has randomly plummeted.
Spike begs Applejack to let him do more chores until she says yes, which again would make some degree of sense if he had a crush on Applejack. Honestly, I think I would be less annoyed if this episode conveyed that Spike simply has his eyes set on the farm pony for a change, but instead it justifies his insistence in the most nonsensical way possible.
Spike: You saved my life. (burps out a paper)
Spike: According to the Spike the Dragon Code, I owe you a life debt, and must serve you.
Granny Smith: Now what about Twilight? Doesn’t she need your help and such?
Spike: Huh, you’re right. I better break the news to Twilight.
Spike: I just hope she doesn’t take it too hard. Be right back.
Excuse me, what? Several episodes of season 2 (Secret of My Excess and Dragon Quest) gave us a lot of real insight into the workings of dragons while exploring Spike’s character in the process. But now this episode is presenting us with something called a “Dragon Code”?! This has no alignment whatsoever with anything we had previously learned about dragons, and it’s never once mentioned again after this episode. The Dragon Code is nothing more than a haphazard justification for why Spike is serving Applejack, since the plot of him serving Rarity was scrapped. Spike presenting us with his Dragon Code out of nowhere is easily the part of this episode that annoys me the most. I’ve read that some fans like to act as though this episode never happened, and this is probably the one instance where I can’t blame them for doing so. There is no Dragon Code. It was all just a bad dream, OK?
With a heavy heart. Spike goes to Twilight Sparkle’s place and tells her that he will no longer serve as her assistant, because his dragon code is apparently that important to him. All Twilight says is “m-hm” a bunch of times and “sounds good” at the end because she’s so absorbed in her books. Normally, as much as she loves reading, Twilight easily snaps out of it when a friend has something big to tell her. So why is she so unbroken from her concentration here? The only explanation I can think of that doesn’t contradict her character is that the book she’s reading is REALLY enticing and gripping, even more than the first time Rainbow Dash read a Daring Do book. Otherwise, we can add this to the episode’s pile of annoying contrivances.
Some fans theorize that Spike made up his Dragon Code on the spot, but that doesn’t explain why he takes it so dead seriously.
Applejack: Listen, sugarcube. I completely respect your “dragon code”…
Applejack: Truly I do, but… I just can’t cotton with you permanently serving me.
Spike: Please, Applejack. My dragon code is a part of me. I have to be true to myself!
Spike: If you don’t let me do this, I won’t be a noble dragon anymore.
What on earth is even HAPPENING here???
All I can do at this scene is laugh at how ridiculous and contrived Spike’s dragon code is. It does not match anything we had previously learned about Spike’s character or dragons in general, and it’s an amazingly sloppy excuse that’s so much worse than the show usually is. There is some media where I tend to laugh at how bad it is, and even though I love this show with all my heart, I’m starting to find this one specific episode hilariously bad.
I give up on taking this episode seriously. Spike asks what more he can do and suggests taking the pie* he made to Rarity offhand, Applejack goes “sure, why not”, and Rarity eats a tiny piece and secretly spits it out. Unlike Putting Your Hoof Down, where Fluttershy was the only character who seemed like her regular self, everyone in this episode is their regular selves except Spike. It’s like Spike has been replaced with some watered-down version of himself from an alternate dimension, and he’s probably kidnapped the real Spike.
* Under an expansive definition of “pie”.
Applejack then explains her situation to Rarity, who responds by going on about how she would love to have someone do all her chores for her. This comes off to me as telling viewers why this episode wasn’t about Spike doing all of Rarity’s chores. It simply wouldn’t have made for a compelling story.
For some reason, this episode has a thrown-in jab at fans, where Rainbow Dash mentions she’s writing a story about an awesome pegasus who becomes the captain of the Wonderbolts. This is an obvious reference to fanfictions with a blatant self-insert character, and while it’s very random to have in this episode, it also fits in with Rainbow Dash’s character. As the show progresses, her demeanor resembles its male fans more and more.
Back to this episode’s plot, Rainbow Dash suggests that Applejack make Spike do something really hard, thinking he will give up early on. This is a fair assumption that matches Spike’s character, but since Spike’s personality has been overwritten…
… he follows through with Rainbow Dash’s request of building a huge rock tower, which she said was for the sake of helping Applejack. Again, it cracks me up how much Spike isn’t himself right now. Not to mention that he’s Derpy Hooves levels of clumsy one moment but follows promises to the letter the next. Rainbow Dash nervously knocks down the tower as she promised and gets hurt in the process. This leads Applejack to tell Spike there’s nothing more for him to help with, but that doesn’t stop him from needlessly serving her.
OK, next up is a scene that is too funny for me to be mad at. Twilight Sparkle is so absorbed in her book that she doesn’t notice when Applejack calls her name, but when Applejack nudges one of her cups of ink, that’s when she snaps out of it. Does it make sense? Not really. But does it match with Twilight’s persistently hilarious obsession with detail? Absolutely. It also shows that Applejack knows Twilight Sparkle well, which is lowkey sweet. After getting Twilight’s attention, Applejack tells her what all Spike said to her, and she’s shocked.
Applejack: Well, now that you know what’s going on, maybe you could talk some sense into him.
Twilight Sparkle: Oh Applejack, I wish I could, but… this is Dragon Code we’re talking about. Surely you know how important the Dragon Code is to a dragon.
Applejack: I sure am starting to.
HAHAHAHA! I’M SORRY, I JUST…
I CAN’T EVEN, I MEAN, SERIOUSLY…
I DON’T BUY IT AT ALL, HAHAHAHAHA!!! THE IDEA THAT THE DRAGON CODE WAS RETROACTIVELY A REALLY IMPORTANT PART OF SPIKE’S CHARACTER AND HISTORY, AND THAT TWILIGHT SPARKLE KNOWS ABOUT IT, BUT WE DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT IT UNTIL NOW????? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO EXCEPT LAUGH LIKE CRAZY???????
No, really. What am I supposed to do with this information?
… Wait, I’ve got it. Overcomplicated theory time, here we go!
The evil copy of Spike who replaced the real Spike in this episode must have either traveled back in time or altered Twilight Sparkle’s memories so that she remembers the Dragon Code as being a big important part of his life, because otherwise this entire episode’s plot would fall apart. That explains everything about this episode perfectly, and I will take no further questions.
Poor Pinkie Pie so badly wanted to wear a mustache, but Applejack wouldn’t allow it.
While Spike is kept busy counting the blades of grass at Sweet Apple Acres, the Mane 6 devise a plan to repay Spike’s debt and pretend to have him save Applejack from a Timberwolf. Even though my brain cannot process the Dragon Code as a meaningful part of the show’s lore, it’s at least cool for Twilight to remember the details of it and how to end Spike’s insistence on serving Applejack.
OK, at this point it’s clear that this episode isn’t all bad. The scene where Rarity tries to teach Applejack how to do a good damsel in distress act is pretty good, and it’s a fun callback to A Dog and Pony Show where she used that act to glorious effect. Unfortunately, since she’s the element of honesty, Applejack isn’t nearly as good at putting up a fake act, and she barely has time to learn anyway…
… because Spike just finished counting every blade of grass at Sweet Apple Acres, landing at 24,567,837 blades. I’m going to guess that either he made that number up because he was bored of counting, or he traveled back in time after finishing counting the blades. And no, I will not take “cartoon logic” as a valid answer. Where’s the fun in that?
Applejack asks Spike to rake the leaves, and then the ponies put on a fake Timberwolf act that Spike doesn’t fall for. While Rarity put on a believable scream and Rainbow Dash performed a convincing roar, Applejack’s attempt at playing a damsel in distress is so bad that not even this episode’s ultra-gullible version of Spike falls for it. Think about it for a second: this is the Spike who willfully built that rock tower convinced it was for Applejack’s sake. This is how bad Applejack is at playing a damsel in distress. It ties in with her character though.
Spike proves that the Timberwolf is fake by noting that a real Timberwolf’s breath has an unmistakable smell, which is a perfect point to lead to real Timberwolves. Applejack defeats them at first, but then they all regenerate into one huge Timberwolf, and Applejack has her hoof stuck between two rocks for real this time. The fake scenario the Mane 6 tried to put on has become reality. Luckily, Spike saves Applejack quickly enough by throwing a pebble in a critical location, namely the Timberwolf’s throat, then using a stick to pry the rocks off. After that, the Timberwolf collapses into a pile of sticks, rocks, and leaves.
You know, maybe it’s always this way with Dragon Code. Maybe dragons get into life-threatening situations all the time, and a dragon’s tenure serving another usually doesn’t last long… wait, who am I kidding, the Dragon Code is complete nonsense.
Spike and Applejack rejoin the rest of the Mane 6 and apologize to each other, and then agree not to bother with the Dragon Code anymore. The show follows this promise perfectly, since after this episode, we never hear about the Dragon Code again! Could the Dragon Code being a one-off devised solely as an excuse for this episode to happen be any more obvious?
I knew it was worth not skipping this episode!
This episode ends with resuming the status quo of Spike being Twilight Sparkle’s loyal assistant. One thing I like about this show is that its characters and setting grow and change throughout instead of always falling back to the status quo, but it’s fine I guess. With an episode as full of contrivances as this, it’s probably for the best that it ends with the characters pretty much saying “let’s never speak of this again”.
You know how I sometimes claim that I only like MLP “ironically” even though that’s obviously not true? Well, if there’s any episode of the show that I do enjoy ironically, it’s this one. I had a surprising amount of fun poking at how nonsensical and contrived it is, and I found myself laughing at how bad it was quite a few times. This especially holds with Spike’s inexplicable extreme devotion to serving Applejack, as well as his insistence upon following his supposed “Dragon Code”, which doesn’t exist outside this episode. So even though this episode is easily one of the worst of the entire show, at least it’s bad in a funny way. And even though I started this review on an unenthusiastic note, I ultimately enjoyed writing it.
I was so close to giving this one an F, but it has enough genuinely funny moments that I don’t have it in me to.
- I find it a little amusing that Twilight Sparkle’s stack of books at the start is exactly twelve, as Spike says. Perhaps this show’s staff knew fans would tear the opening scene to pieces if the number wasn’t consistent. (This would be a lot funnier if I hadn’t just torn the entire rest of the episode to pieces.)
- Come to think of it, Spike’s absurdly loyal servitude towards Applejack reminds me of how most of the Mane 6 behave through a good portion of the season 6 episode Every Little Thing She Does. The main difference is that in that episode, the ponies are all brainwashed by Starlight Glimmer’s magic, so it actually makes sense for them to act this way.
With this sloppy mess out of the way, next up we have a pivotal episode that I consider the highlight of season 3.
Season 3 Episode 10: Keep Calm and Flutter On
In five words: Discord says “friendship is magic”.
Premise: Celestia presents the Mane 6 with a seemingly impossible task: reforming Discord. Only Fluttershy is brave enough (which is to say kind enough) for the challenge.
This episode is another one that starts with a mundane scene, this time four of the Mane 6 and Spike waiting in a grassy field for Celestia to arrive with a guest. Just like the start of A Canterlot Wedding, this scene has a reason for being so mundane: it sets up contrast against the dramatic game changer that’s soon to follow.
Much like with A Canterlot Wedding, I’ve chosen to take my sweet time with this review.
Spike: (gasps) Maybe the visitor has a deer antler, a goat leg, a bat wing, and a snake tail.
Twilight Sparkle: Yeah, right. That’s Discord.
Rarity: Why in the wide, wide world of Equestria would Princess Celestia bring along someone like that?
Spike: M-m-m-maybe you should ask her!
The buildup to Discord’s re-reveal is executed very well. Spike’s first line quoted above, where he mentions some of Discord’s physical features, rings a bell for attentive viewers but probably sounds like crazy talk to those who are more forgetful. Discord was always a fan favorite character, so it makes sense his return wouldn’t be immediately dropped upon us.
And then Celestia arrives, as does Discord’s statue—turns out Spike wasn’t kidding. The bombshell is dropped, the ponies are shocked, and that’s a perfect cliffhanger before the theme song.
Twilight Sparkle: With all due respect, Princess Celestia… HOW COULD YOU BRING DISCORD HERE??? (clears throat) Your majesty.
Celestia: I’m fully aware that the last time Discord was here, he created serious havoc.
I love the way Twilight Sparkle alternates between being kind and respectful to Celestia and yelling at her in baffled anger. She thinks bringing back Discord is the stupidest idea in the history of Equestria, and that creates some humorous friction with her loyal respect for the princess.
Rainbow Dash: If by “serious havoc”, you mean turning Ponyville into the chaos capital of the world.
Rarity: And tricking us all into being the opposite of our true selves.
Pinkie Pie: And making yummy delicious chocolate milk rain all over the place without a single dollop of whipped cream to go with it anywhere in sight! NOT A SINGLE DOLLOP!
While Rainbow Dash and Rarity provide rational reasons for hating Discord, Pinkie Pie gives the most comically insignificant reason possible. This gag isn’t just there to be funny; it also indicates that unlike what The Return of Harmony might have suggested, Pinkie Pie won’t be the member of the Mane 6 who befriends Discord. The obvious choice is eliminated early on, making way for Fluttershy to befriend him instead.
Celestia: Yes, I understand. But I have use for Discord’s magic if it can be reformed to serve good instead of evil.
Celestia: This is why I’ve brought Discord here. Because I believe that you are the ponies who can help him do just that.
I can only imagine how well the idea of reforming Discord went over to the rest of Equestria’s royalty. It probably seemed like a nutty idea to all of them; perhaps that’s why Celestia was running late. I imagine that Luna, Shining Armor, and Cadance all sternly doubted this was a good idea, but Celestia insisted the Mane 6 could reform Discord given all the other incredible feats they had done prior. In fact, this is the very rationale she gives for assigning the Mane 6 this task. As the show progresses, it becomes abundantly clear that Celestia always knew these six ponies were fated to be legendary heroes.
Not shown: Celestia giving the Mane 6 the Elements of Harmony, locked in a chest with a Discord-proof spell.
Celestia: Now where is Fluttershy? I believe she may know best how to begin reforming Discord.
Rainbow Dash: Fluttershy? Really?!
Though Rainbow Dash thinks the idea of Fluttershy reforming Discord is far-fetched, I can see where Celestia is coming from here. Fluttershy has stood up to big dangerous creatures in times of peril, typically followed by comforting words of kindness, and an omnipotent reality warper like Discord is merely the next step above that.
Rainbow Dash’s befuddlement transitions us to Fluttershy demonstrating her penchant for kindness. She has just gotten a beaver named Mr. Beaverton Beaverteeth to agree to take down his dam for the sake of Applejack’s trees, but not before Applejack and the beaver apologize to each other. Even though Applejack insults Beaverton, and Beaverton reportedly uses some very rude language in response, Fluttershy keeps her calm until the dam is taken down and the river resumes its flowing. This is a lovely demonstration of Fluttershy’s special skills in kindness, setting the stage for what’s to come. The scene also establishes a pivotal location for Discord’s soon-to-come redemption arc.
The Mane 6 use the Elements of Harmony to do a wacky rainbow spell and unfreeze Discord, who acts as though he woke up from a nap and quickly resumes his mischief by snapping his fingers and making little animals big and brawny.
Discord: You know what else is adorable? You ponies truly believe that you can reform me, and that you’re putting your faith in this one here to make it happen.
Discord: Makes me want to pinch your little horsey cheeks.
I imagine that deep down, Discord truly does want to pinch this adorable pony’s cheeks just like the rest of us.
Twilight Sparkle: How’d you know about that?
Discord: Being turned to stone doesn’t keep me from hearing every word Celestia says. Although I admit it makes rolling my eyes a challenge.
Twilight Sparkle: Well, unless you want us to turn you back to stone, you’ll zap those animals back the way they were pronto!
Discord: Well, you wouldn’t dare turn me back to stone and risk disappointing your precious princess.
Discord has a wonderful penchant for mind games unlike any other character, and it’s a trait that’s just as strong in him pre- and post-reformation. He always knows how to get under others’ skin and say things that they know are true but won’t admit, and while this is typically a villainous trait, he can just as well use this skill for good (or more often, a twisted and warped form of good). I think the show does a great job retaining the charm of his character after he’s reformed, and striking a balance between heroism and villainy.
Fluttershy uses The Stare on Discord, and he pretends to be terrified then laughs. Then after a threat from Twilight Sparkle, he turns the animals back but secretly turns other animals evil, leading to a sarcastic “oops”. This sets the stage for Discord’s characterization through the rest of the show: not outright villainous, but still willing to use deft trickery to serve good in obtuse ways.
Putting Discord and Angel Bunny in the same room leads to hilarity.
Discord crashes at Fluttershy’s place for the evening, and she’s the only one of the Mane 6 who’s even remotely willing to give him a chance.
Fluttershy: Oh, I’m sorry about Angel. Are you alright?
Discord: Oh, yes. Thank you Fluttershy for your concern. If only your pony friends could be as considerate.
Rainbow Dash: Don’t listen to him, Fluttershy. He’s just trying to drive a wedge between us like he always does.
Discord: Now, why in the world would I ever try to do a thing like that?
Rainbow Dash: So we can’t unite and use the Elements of Harmony against you, that’s why!
As Discord points out, it’s striking how different Fluttershy treats him from how the rest of the Mane 6 do. Fluttershy treats him with kindness and respect because it’s in her nature to do so, and while it sounds crazy at first, this treatment eventually pays off.
On the topic of ideas that sound crazy and impossible, how about a TV show called My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic? The idea of making a My Little Pony show that boys and adults would enjoy sounds far-fetched on paper, but it worked spectacularly! This show itself is a crazy idea that ended up working, so it makes thematic sense for there to be a similarly crazy but successful idea within the show’s canon.
This lamp resurfaces in a season 4 episode, don’t forget.
Discord knocks the lamp down, then with a snap of his fingers, he reassembles it in the shape of himself. I think this new lamp nicely symbolizes his personality: it’s a perfectly serviceable lamp just like the old one, and objectively the ponies have no reason to be mad at it, but it’s still a gesture of trickery to not just bring the old lamp back.
Most of the Mane 6 leave Fluttershy’s place in frustration, but Twilight Sparkle has a few more words to say.
Twilight Sparkle: You sure you’re OK with this?
Fluttershy: I know it’s not gonna be easy, but Princess Celestia’s counting on me. And… I think I actually know what to do.
Twilight Sparkle: You do?
Fluttershy: I think the key is to befriend him. Being kind to him and letting him be my houseguest is probably the best way to do that.
Twilight Sparkle: And you really think that’ll work?
Fluttershy: I think it’s worth a try!
Let’s stop and appreciate how pure-hearted Fluttershy is being. We’ve seen so much frightening villainy from Discord firsthand, so much that only the purest, kindest soul in all of Equestria would dare think of putting all that behind them and befriending him. Fluttershy is sweet and pure down to the core, and even she knows that this idea is far-fetched, but she truly thinks it just might work. She knows the risk she’s taking, and instead of whimpering in fear, she’s going to face it head-on. She’s already been through some character development by this point.
The rest of the Mane 6 are baffled at Fluttershy’s decision, and they devise a backup plan in case Discord betrays their trust again. Then Fluttershy chances upon Discord eating paper, and in typical Fluttershy fashion, she’s weirded out but gives him the benefit of the doubt. Discord clearly knew that Fluttershy would react this way…
… because when the rest of the ponies look through Twilight’s books for reformation spells, they’re all gone. While this is a great example of Discord’s flavor of trickery, I also imagine that deep down he’s genuinely uncomfortable with the idea of magic spells altering his personality. He did that to most of the Mane 6 in The Return of Harmony, and back then he never thought about how much he would hate it if someone did that to him. This is a very slight demonstration of Discord’s insecure side, which becomes much less slight in episodes like Make New Friends but Keep Discord or Discordant Harmony. Both are episodes I’m looking forward to analyzing, but they’re a long way from now.
Meanwhile at Fluttershy’s place, Discord has made the house constantly rotate, claiming it’s more comfortable for him, and Fluttershy buys into it. It’s not an unfair assumption on her end; this guy is the Lord of Chaos. He never feels at home when things are plain and straightforward.
Discord: You’re so very kind, my dear Fluttershy. I always knew that you were the understanding one. Not like those nasty friends of yours.
Fluttershy: (gasps) My friends aren’t nasty!
Discord: Well of course you’d say that, it… just goes to show how understanding you truly are!
Discord: You know, I think Princess Celestia is right when she singled you out as the one who could reform me. You’re off to such a good start, I’m seriously considering actually being reformed!
When Discord says the last line quoted above, he grows a second face from behind and spits his tongue, as shown here. One might assume that this second face shows that Discord isn’t interested in befriending Fluttershy at all, but I beg to differ. I imagine that part of him is starting to see Fluttershy as a friend, but another part of him refuses to have any interest in friendship, as symbolized by the two faces shown above. He internally insists he still has no interest in friendship, just like how a boy watching this show for the first time might internally insist he doesn’t like it.
Normally if Angel’s expression doesn’t match Fluttershy’s, that means she’s in denial or lying about something.
But here, Fluttershy truly believes she and Discord can become friends.
Twilight Sparkle catches up with Fluttershy, who claims she is making great progress befriending Discord. From any other character, Fluttershy’s words would come off as repressive denial, but it’s clear that she is being completely sincere here. Her belief in this crazy idea remains unbroken in the most adorable and precious way, and it only reaches a breaking point after Discord officially sees her as a friend.
Spike: Hate to break it to you, but he used that “space to be himself” to tear out all the reforming spells from the library.
Fluttershy: That does explain the paper eating.
Twilight Sparkle: He ATE THEM?! (groans)
Fluttershy: But we aren’t gonna need a spell. He’s already really considering being reformed! He said so.
Twilight Sparkle: And you believed him?!
Fluttershy: If I’m going to be his friend, I have to start by giving him the benefit of the doubt.
Think about it for a second. No one in this show before has ever considered giving Discord the benefit of the doubt or letting him be himself. No one else has dared to offer him a hand… er, a hoof or a claw before. Fluttershy is going into unforeseen territory by seeing what happens when she cuts Discord some slack, which is incredibly brave of her. The other ponies and Spike don’t just distrust Discord; they’re probably also too scared of him to try.
In the evening, Fluttershy invites her friends over to have dinner with Discord. She had said she would get Discord to put her house back in the ground, and she succeeded! This is a subtle hint at a budding friendship with Discord.
Fluttershy said she got Discord to set the table all by himself and is proud of him.
It’s adorable how patient she is with him, taking things one step at a time.
The dinner party starts out calm, but Discord’s wacky shenanigans quickly lead to mischief, with things like a gravy puppy, bouncing candles, and a fish that spits sauce on the other ponies. The guests besides Fluttershy are all annoyed, and Rainbow Dash especially thinks Discord is deliberately preventing them from using the Elements of Harmony against him. I think Rainbow Dash is right in a way: as I said earlier, Discord is probably scared that the Mane 6 would use their magic against him and alter his personality against his will. But Fluttershy knows that you can’t change someone overnight, and you have to be patient if you want them to better themselves.
Aww, this is so sweet.
Rainbow Dash: What’s gotten into you? Why do you cut him so much slack?
Fluttershy: Because that’s what friends do.
Discord: … We’re friends?
Fluttershy: Why, of course! I can’t remember my house ever being this lively before you came along.
Discord: Oh… Well, I’ve… never really had a friend before.
Fluttershy: Well, now you do.
The Mane 6 are shocked at this newfound friendship; I can tell that Fluttershy and Discord are a match that none of them would have EVER expected. But considering that Rainbow Dash has a subtle girly side, or that Rarity has an action-oriented side, it makes sense for Fluttershy to have a goofy and playful side too. Having a playful side makes Fluttershy even more adorable than she already is, and by being friends with Discord, she’s found someone new who she can share this side with. And the same goes with Discord’s gentle side, which Fluttershy has been slowly uncovering.
But this heartfelt moment is interrupted when Angel comes in and tries to convey that there is a flood at Sweet Apple Acres, as the rest of the Mane 6 try to guess what he means until they get it right. I’m not sure why Angel doesn’t just communicate it to Fluttershy; maybe he thinks Fluttershy wouldn’t believe him or is too preoccupied with this dinner party? This scene is funny, so I can’t complain too much.
Rainbow Dash: Flooding at Sweet Apple Acres! And we all know who’s behind that now, don’t we?
Discord: Who, me? (halo appears above his head)
Rainbow Dash: Oh, give it a rest. What do you think of your friend now, Fluttershy?
This scene is a great way to convey Discord’s new characterization: while he isn’t actively villainous anymore, his actions still tend to cause disastrous unintended consequences due to his extreme power and difficulty controlling himself. This is a pattern with Discord that, without spoiling anything, persists until the very end of the show. Fluttershy seems to understand this about him, but that won’t stop her from being mad at him.
And now we see the flood firsthand, caused by big brutal beavers who won’t listen to reason. Unlike what her pony friends think, Fluttershy knows well that this is Discord’s doing, but still wants to trust and listen to him regardless. Her friends all think Fluttershy is gullible and don’t understand what she’s doing, but this is where Fluttershy finally loses her patience and snaps at Discord.
Discord agrees to fix this flood if Fluttershy promises not to use her element of harmony against him. When Fluttershy takes off her butterfly necklace, Discord turns the flood into ice, which doesn’t fix the problem at all. Discord is soon to learn a common theme in this show: these ponies can do amazing things without needing any silly magical objects, which can be summed up as the last three words of this show’s title. He thinks that without the Elements of Harmony (the objects, not the personality traits), there is no way he could ever be reformed, but he’s soon to be proven wrong.
And this is where Fluttershy reaches her breaking point. She refuses to take her element of harmony back because of her promise, but she’s still furious at Discord.
Discord: Haha! You see, she wants to have fun with me because we’re friends. She can’t use the elements against me because we’re friends. I’m free forever! Hahaha!
Fluttershy: NOT! YOUR! FRIEND!
Discord: Who cares? I can do whatever I want whenever I want. I’m Discord, the master of chaos.
Fluttershy’s patience has its limits, and it is through reaching those limits that she achieves great things.
Discord: You think you can boss Discord around? You think I’m just going to turn all this back because you say so? Because if I don’t, I’ll lose the one friend I ever had?
This scene is a downright masterful use of the trope where a character reaches a shocking realization through nothing more than their own explanation. Discord unwittingly admitted to himself that he views Fluttershy as a friend, and by admitting it to himself, that’s when tears well up in his eyes. It’s pretty amazing that he ultimately had this realization all on his own. It’s often seen as valuable to admit difficult truths to others, but admitting truths to yourself is important too. Any adult who likes this show had to admit to themselves that they genuinely enjoy it, and for many people, that isn’t easy either.
Take note of the scene where Discord stares into his huge flood of ice, realizing what he just did. That’s where it dawns on him how dangerous his powers are: they can not only cause havoc across all of Equestria, but also cost him the only friend he’s ever had. Through staring into the distance, it’s clear that he’s realizing that he spent his entire existence without anyone he could call a friend, and that Fluttershy was filling a hole that he hadn’t realized was there. Fluttershy and Discord’s personalities complement each other in a beautifully unprecedented way…
This is the MLP equivalent to pressing Ctrl-Z.
… and that’s what causes Discord to undo all this damage, all on his own will. He didn’t need any crazy magic to persuade him; all he needed was the magic of friendship.
Not shown: the rest of the Mane 6 proudly congratulating Fluttershy.
(She deserved it.)
Discord: I liked it better my way, but… I guess when you’re friends, you can’t always have things exactly your way all the time, eh?
Here’s where Discord narrates this episode’s friendship lesson, in a simple and effective scene. This starts a pattern with Discord’s later episodes: from here on out, if an episode features Discord, then chances are he will learn a friendship lesson at the end. More on this topic in the overall thoughts.
Celestia congratulates the Mane 6 on reforming Discord, and decides to leave the Elements of Harmony with Twilight Sparkle just in case. This is a leadup to Magical Mystery Cure that doubles as a demonstration of her increasing trust in Twilight. Then we get the legendary moment:
Fluttershy: Go on. Say it.
Discord: (groans) Alright. Friendship is magic.
I love, love, LOVE the way Discord groans and then quickly says what he knows everyone wanted to hear while swinging his head around. He speaks for many of the show’s fans who are embarrassed to admit how much they love this show, and I won’t lie, there’s still a part of me that gets queasy about admitting I love this show.
You probably already know that getting John de Lancie to voice Discord was a huge accomplishment, since he played the Star Trek character who inspired Discord. As such, it’s an even bigger accomplishment for Discord (and the show as a whole) to be so well-liked that he became a permanent member of the show’s cast, instead of just a one-off character as originally intended. Having John de Lancie say “friendship is magic” is the perfect celebration of this massive feat. The very fact that this show exists is awesome, as is the fact that it got a Star Trek actor to drop its title.
Fluttershy: See? He can be a real sweetheart once you get to know him.
This line from Fluttershy concludes this episode, cementing her friendship with Discord. I love how the rest of the characters in this scene (even Celestia) look like they don’t really agree with her, but are happy that Fluttershy has made a new friend. It’s a fact of life that sometimes, strong and hearty friendships will sprout between the people you least expect, and this episode demonstrates that concept perfectly.
Everything about this episode is awesome, both in-universe and on a meta level. The fact that this episode’s story was originally devised by a random fan is awesome, as is the fact that Discord is no longer just a one-off character due to his popularity among fans. Fans have shaped this show in ways that no one would have anticipated, and there will be much, much more to come. On an in-universe level, the fact that Fluttershy managed to reform one of the show’s villains is EXTREMELY awesome, and it’s executed so perfectly.
Reforming Discord was a good move that allowed the show to do fresh new things with his character without compromising his mischievous nature. He plays pivotal roles in many later two-part episodes, but he also gets some regular episodes to his name; typically one or two per season, which is generous for a recurring character. A benefit of the show reforming villains is that it allows for friendship lessons that would be too fundamental for the Mane 6, Spike, or the Cutie Mark Crusaders to learn. Discord learns a lot more friendship lessons in later seasons, and the lessons he learns are especially useful for viewers who only have one or two very close friends instead of a large group of friends. These morals wouldn’t have been possible without adding him to the show’s recurring cast.
This episode takes something far-fetched and does it beautifully. Huge respects all around.
- Rainbow Dash calls Discord “Dipcord” as an insult, and I almost want to say that’s another allusion to profanity. But then again, “dip” without a swear word attached to the end is also sometimes used to mean a stupid person.
- Knowing my other work, it probably seems strange that I would persistently tiptoe around profanity in my MLP posts. But it’s honestly fun to get my points across without using vulgar language, and it doesn’t feel right to use such words when analyzing a family-friendly show.
- Weird, I thought for sure I would have more aside notes for such a pivotal episode. Ah well, sometimes I just don’t.
After an episode focused on reforming a supporting character, next up is an episode where the supporting cast takes the show.
See you next time for a pair of chronologically concurrent episodes that are side by side in the show’s broadcast order, but for some reason interspersed with three other episodes in production order.