Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 70: The Times They Are a Changeling + Dungeons & Discords

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< Part 69 | Part 70 | Part 71 >

Season 6, Episodes 16-17

This post took a little longer than the last few because spent a few days (March 15-18) on a trip to New York City where I met several Internet friends and a friend from school. During that trip, when waiting for things to happen in my hotel room, I wrote the first half of my review of Dungeons & Discords.

Season 6 Episode 16: The Times They Are a Changeling

In five words: First step resolving changeling discrimination.

Premise: The Crystal Empire is under threat by a changeling spy, and when searching for the culprit, Spike discovers a sensitive changeling named Thorax who merely wants to be his friend.

Detailed run-through:

For some reason, pretty much every episode taking place in the Crystal Empire starts with a train ride there.

To start this episode, Twilight Sparkle demonstrates a severe lack of fourth-wall awareness when she says Flurry Heart has grown a lot and she probably won’t even recognize the baby. If she was aware of the fourth wall, she would know that babies in a cartoon NEVER age until the time skip finale. Starlight and Twilight have a friendly discussion that shows good progression in friendship lessons, which makes it surprising that in the next episode focusing on Starlight, she royally screws things up.

Spike keeping a plush of his pony waifu wherever he goes was clearly inspired by bronies doing the same.

Pretty much every episode taking place in the Crystal Empire also has a reminder that the crystal ponies obsessively worship Spike. Spike has a variety of goofy disguises prepared, and I wonder… could this be a hint that he’s soon to befriend a member of the race whose specialty is impersonation?

One difference from pretty much every episode taking place in the Crystal Empire is that this time, it doesn’t feature all of the Mane 6—instead, it’s only Twilight Sparkle, Starlight Glimmer, and Spike who visit. The minimization of the cast helps give supporting characters some spotlight time that would have otherwise been taken by Pinkie Pie gags.

The Crystal Empire seems strangely quiet until the moment Spike takes off his disguise. A bunch of crystal ponies immediately come out of their houses to fawn over him, until one of them points out that Spike might be a changeling, then they all scamper back to their houses. I think it’s character development for Spike to be tired of the Crystal Empire worshipping him—he loved it at first, but by now it’s clear there’s much more to him than just a childish self-image.

As cute as Twilight and Cadance’s “sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake” dance is, it seems odd that this is the best proof anyone in the Crystal Empire has not just that Twilight isn’t a changeling, but that Starlight and Spike are real too. Unlike Queen Chrysalis’s timeline in The Cutie Re-Mark, there doesn’t seem to be any changeling-detecting face paint, which would be a good security mechanism. Instead, proof merely lies in the Crystal Empire’s trust of Twilight Sparkle and her circle, which is a contrivance necessary for the plot to happen.

It wouldn’t even be very logical for changelings to impersonate the two ponies and dragon visiting the Crystal Empire. I doubt any changelings even know who Starlight Glimmer is—the only one who might have caught a glimpse of her is Thorax, who appears from a distance at the end of The Crystalling.

The only residents of the Crystal Empire who aren’t brainless in this episode are Shining Armor, Cadance, and Sunburst.
You know, the main characters.

During the exposition dump, another contrivance about this episode occurred to me: Twilight, Spike, and Starlight visited the Crystal Empire just to catch up with Cadance’s family and Sunburst respectively, and that just so happens to be while the Crystal Empire is under threat by a changeling. That’s a weird coincidence, and it would be more logical if Cadance called Twilight and friends over so they could help deal with the threat. Maybe you could argue that the Crystal Empire would be in lockdown forever until Twilight Sparkle comes over? If Cadance told Twilight to arrive at the empire at a precise time, that would be much more foolproof than her and two others waltzing in at a random moment.

Now that I think of it, if Twilight was asked to help defend the Crystal Empire against changelings, she and Starlight would have done some brainstorming based on the Queen Chrysalis timeline, then perhaps gone to Zecora to make changeling detection face paint. I think that could still allow the episode’s plot to happen—perhaps Starlight Glimmer accidentally loses the changeling paint at the critical moment, and everyone is forced to solve the mystery with their own reasoning.

Away from speculation and back to the actual episode, Spike is sent to lead the royal guard in the search for the changeling, and I don’t know who makes a bigger fool of themselves: Spike or the guards.

Royal guard: Spike the Brave and Glorious, you’ve faced evil changelings before. What can you tell us?
Spike: Oh! Uh… well, they are changelings, so they… can… change.
Royal Guard: You hear that? These monsters can look like any of us, so be on guard, guards. Even more than normal.
Spike: And they could be anywhere.
(royal guards snort in a serious horse-like way)
Spike: So, we should cover as much ground as possible.

Spike didn’t participate in the battle against the changelings in Canterlot along with the Mane 6, but he has met changelings in person as many times as Twilight Sparkle has: twice. Once at Cadance’s wedding, once in an alternate timeline. Maybe three times, if you count the changeling at Cranky Doodle Donkey’s wedding? And yet, he acts clueless about changelings, and the royal guards trust him just as cluelessly.

The guards immediately split off into groups on Spike’s command, leaving Spike all alone because the royal guards apparently didn’t prepare for this at all. Spike’s cult of personality in the Crystal Empire is so massive that almost everyone there will do everything he says and kiss the ground he walks on. Even Cadance has absorbed some of this cult mindset, almost like that family member you probably have who’s very sweet but also a little loony. The only ones who aren’t in the cult seem to be Shining Armor, who grew up with Spike, and Sunburst, a nerdy shut-in who does his own thing.

Perhaps out of desperation to do something heroic, Spike asks if a rock is a changeling and is proven otherwise when he kicks it and almost falls into a pit. Freaked out, he sees his reflection in a nearby cave…

… or is it?

I remember when I first watched season 6’s episodes featuring changelings, they were instant jumpscare material. The show has up to this point portrayed changelings as nothing but freaky monsters—even in Slice of Life, a group of foals huddled in fear a few seats away from the changeling. Given the nightmarish events at Cadance’s wedding, Twilight and friends’ racism towards changelings is very believable. The viewer has been led to view changelings just as unfavorably, up until now.

Spike runs off in fear and almost falls into a pit, but the changeling rescues him just in time. This scene is short and effective, doing all that’s needed to establish he’s a good guy after all.

Thorax: The ice is pretty slippery. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt because of me.
Spike: You… saved me?
Thorax: It’s okay. I know you don’t want to be friends.
Spike: Wait! I don’t understand. Changelings are supposed to be evil, right?
Thorax: Evil? Oh, not me. All I’ve ever wanted is a friend.

Assuming an entire group of people is evil because of war crimes that their leader committed is believable, as is Thorax’s guilt over what his race accomplished. Spike’s presence is important because if a group of ponies entered this scene, Thorax would probably think they want to assassinate him. Both have always felt out of place in their own races, which gives them a clear and unique bond.

Not shown: Queen Chrysalis serving a role similar to a queen bee.

Another thing Thorax and Spike have in common is that they’re probably the only two named characters whose births we see onscreen. Dragons and changelings are the only voiced species in this show that lay eggs, so they’re the only ones whose births we can see onscreen while keeping this show family-friendly. And if you think ponies and yaks don’t reproduce the same way mammals in real life do, then you’re just plain silly. Griffons are more debatable since they’re part bird, but if they laid eggs, we would probably have learned that in the show.

(Oh god, I just went into a tangent about the mysteries of how fictional species reproduce. What am I, a Homestuck fan?!)

Because of this flashback, all the Mane 6 technically appear in this episode.
Shame, because it would be funny if Rarity’s only appearance was as a plush.

Thorax: From the moment I first split my egg in the nursery hive.
Thorax: I was part of the attack on Canterlot during the royal wedding, but I’ve never seen true friendship like that. And I couldn’t just steal love. I wanted to share it.
Thorax: After that, I knew I couldn’t live with my kind anymore. I set off looking for love to share, but…
Spike: But what?
Thorax: I’m starving! And there’s so much love in the Crystal Empire right now. It’s what drew me here!
Thorax: But it’s driving me crazy!

As Thorax alludes to, at the end of the season 6 premiere, he made a very tiny cameo approaching the Crystal Empire. It’s possible that when noticing the changeling, Cadance and Shining Armor ordered a lockdown… which they never told Twilight about for half of this season? If they had told Celestia and Luna about it, Twilight would have probably learned it too, but instead she found that out by accident. That’s the weird thing about this episode: it mixes well-written emotional scenes with some annoying contrivances typical of a Spike episode.

Thorax: If I had a friend, maybe the love we shared could sustain me, but… I don’t think the crystal ponies want to be friends.
Spike: What if I told you there was somepony they respect and admire so much, he could convince them to give it a try?
Thorax: If only that were true.
Spike: It is! I mean, I am. It’s me, Spike!

Thorax is right to doubt Spike’s statement is true, because when Spike said “somepony”, Thorax presumably imagined a pony rather than Spike himself. Spike’s usage of “somepony” to encompass all species is a bit like how some languages use the masculine gender as the default one, and just as some people push to use gender-neutral grammar, in season 8 “somecreature” is chosen as a species-neutral term.

Spike tries telling the royal guards that he’s made friends with a changeling, and they don’t worry that the dragon they worship could be backstabbed by his new friend. They merely think the idea of Spike befriending a changeling is laughably absurd due to their xenophobia.

Shining Armor: I’m sorry, but I don’t think it’s funny. The changeling Queen Chrysalis kidnapped Cadance and cast a spell on me.
(Royal guards walk away)
Shining Armor: There’s no such thing as a nice changeling.
Spike: You’re right, Shining Armor. That was a… bad joke.

Shining Armor, on the other hand, takes this matter dead seriously—he shares Twilight’s ability to keep a wacky group of lunatics under control. He also seems to have a distant but protective relationship to Spike, exactly the kind of relationship you’d see between two siblings with a large age gap and at least one sibling between.

How did “Crystal Hoof” pass through the security so easily?

Spike reports back to Thorax with failure and then tries something new: disguising Thorax as a pony. If you’re passing yourself off as a fake identity, a fake name should be the first thing you come up with, but for some reason Spike and Thorax don’t realize this. They prepared for this encounter so poorly that Spike has to think of a name on the spot: Crystal Hoof. Unlike in Gauntlet of Fire, it takes much longer for Spike’s new friend to blow his cover, so the fake name sticks out a lot more than “Sandy Rock Beach” does.

Spike claims that he met Crystal Hoof at the Equestria Games, which would be a great and believable excuse if Spike had planned this ahead of time, but instead it sounds haphazard and faltering. Luckily for Spike, Twilight lost a few brain cells while we weren’t looking and believes it anyway, so that the story can progress.

Then comes a montage where Spike and Crystal Hoof freely gain the trust of the Crystal Empire, and at least this makes a little more sense since the residents of the Crystal Empire obsessively worship Spike. Still, putting this in a montage instead of spoken scenes feels a little bit lazy.

Before this scene, Crystal Hoof says that he’s a changeling behind some royal guards who apparently can’t hear well.

When taken to see Flurry Heart, Thorax blows his cover and everyone in the room is horrified. Sunburst thinks Crystal Hoof was replaced by a changeling, and judging by Spike’s reaction, who can blame the others for believing that theory? It says a lot that they find the existence of a random pony they hadn’t heard of named Crystal Hoof easier to believe than Spike having befriended a changeling the whole time. Spike goes along with the theory, leaving Thorax to run away in fear.

To bring the story back where it started, Spike finds a rock that really is Thorax in disguise, showing he was right to suspect that a random rock could be a changeling at the start.

Thorax: Leave me alone! (hiss)
(Spike screams and lands at the edge of a cliff)
Spike: Um, a little help?
Thorax: Why do you think I would help you? I’m an evil changeling.
Spike: Because you’re my friend. I just wish I had been one to you.

Note that Spike is holding on to a hole in Thorax’s front leg.
That’s a clever use of changeling design, and I believe it’s done with Queen Chrysalis as well.

Thorax: It’s okay, I know it’s hard. Everyone in the Crystal Empire loves you. I couldn’t ask you to give that up for me.
Spike: You don’t have to ask.
Thorax: What are you gonna do?
Spike: What I should have done in the first place.

The roles have been reversed from the first scene with Thorax: this time, Thorax is scared and bitter that Spike betrayed his trust, and Spike is the one to learn that friends help and look out for each other. He learns from his mistake and goes off to stand up for Thorax once and for all.

I’m going to guess Thorax disguised himself as a royal guard before entering the building.

Season 6 is truly the Spike apology season.

When Spike enters the building, we’re treated to his first solo song in the show (unless you count the Cloudsdale anthem): an emotional piano ballad called A Changeling Can Change. For fans who hated Spike’s clumsy ad-libbing in Equestria Games, it’s very refreshing to hear a proper song from him where he’s treated with respect. In this song, he’s telling all the ponies in the room that change is such a natural part of the way the world works that it shouldn’t be hard to believe a changeling can be good after all.

As Spike sings, Twilight Sparkle’s expression compared to the rest shows that as much as the Crystal Empire idolizes Spike, no one trusts him the same way Twilight does. She’s the first one to believe Spike has made a new friend, perhaps because she witnessed Spike befriending another dragon firsthand earlier this season.

After the song ends, Twilight Sparkle expresses pride in Spike for risking his celebrity status for the sake of a new friend, which is a great way to throw him a bone.

Twilight Sparkle: As the Princess of Friendship, I try to set an example for all of Equestria, but today, it was Spike who taught me that a new friend can come from anywhere. I guess everypony still has things to learn about friendship, even me.
Twilight Sparkle: And if Spike says Thorax is his friend, then he’s my friend too.
Thorax: Thank you.

While some ponies might be skeptical and think Thorax would betray Spike and lead a changeling invasion, Twilight Sparkle trusts him to make his own friends, which is very admirable. She had to learn this lesson after she refused to trust Starlight to pick her own new friend. I just hope it got through to the royal guards and all the others that Thorax is Crystal Hoof. I would say they can deduce it through logic, but they weren’t very smart in this episode.

Twilight Sparkle and Spike successfully convince the rest of the Crystal Empire to welcome Thorax, and he cries in joy as he’s cheered upon. He says that someday, he hopes to teach other changelings that love can be shared instead of stolen, which plants the seeds for the season 6 finale.

Overall thoughts:

I feel conflicted about this episode because it has a good and meaningful story about rethinking discrimination and treats Spike with a lot of respect, but it also has a lot of the classic Spike episode contrivances where other characters act extremely stupid. The Crystal Empire was lackluster in preparing to deal with the changeling threat, and if I’m getting the story of the episode right, Cadance and Shining Armor put the empire on lockdown and didn’t notify any Equestrian figures of royalty about it. Spike and Thorax were similarly unprepared for the fake identity, which is weird because Thorax’s cover is only blown when he approaches Flurry Heart. I highly respect that this episode throws Spike a bone for the second time in season 6, and I’ve always liked Thorax as a character, but I can’t ignore that a lot of this episode’s plot doesn’t make sense.

Grade: C

Though both of this season’s Spike episodes are memorable and important to the show’s overall plot, Gauntlet of Fire is without a doubt the better one.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Thinking about Spike’s cult of personality, I think the plot of Princess Spike would have made more sense if it was in the Crystal Empire rather than Canterlot. In the Crystal Empire, there’s a good amount of precedent that everyone would blindly follow his orders.
  • When Spike stutters the “ch” before screaming “changeling”, I couldn’t help but think of the song “Changes” by David Bowie. I also can’t help but wonder if it’s an intentional shoutout to this song.

The next character for Spike to make friends with is a familiar face with an extremely mixed track record on friendship.

Season 6 Episode 17: Dungeons & Discords

In five words: Episode focused entirely on males.

Premise: Left behind when the Mane 6 go on a trip, Discord is forced out of his comfort zone and joins Spike and Big Macintosh in playing a tabletop RPG called Ogres and Oubliettes. He struggles to understand why they find it fun.

Detailed run-through:

The interesting thing about Discord episodes is that no two writers interpret him exactly the same way—he can be treated very sympathetically like in Discordant Harmony, or as borderline psychopathic like in Make New Friends but Keep Discord. Nick Confalone, the writer of this episode, seems to see Discord somewhere in the middle. His relationship with Fluttershy is portrayed here as an obsessive one-sided crush. He thinks Fluttershy planned a trip for the two of them, but Fluttershy says Celestia is taking her and her friends on an overnight trip to Yakyakistan. I find it strange that this episode doesn’t have a concurrent episode where the Mane 6 go to Yakyakistan, considering Pinkie Pie barely didn’t make there in season 5, but we finally get to see the place in person in season 7.

Fluttershy: If you’re looking for something to do, you could spend the evening with Spike and Big Mac.
Discord: (laughs) … You aren’t kidding.
Fluttershy: They’re very nice. They have a top secret thing they do whenever we leave Ponyville. Although… everypony knows about it, so it’s not a very good secret.

I like that at this point, the show acknowledges that Spike is sometimes left behind when the Mane 6 go on an adventure, and he’s totally cool with that—he uses that as an opportunity to spend time with Big Macintosh, just like he did during the season 5 premiere. It sounds like the writer of this episode found it intriguing that Spike and Big Mac like to hang out when the Mane 6 are away, so he decided to show that firsthand with someone new added to the mix.

Fluttershy: I think you’d have fun with them.
Discord: Fun, with sidekicks? Oh, you must think that we’re in a dimension where everything is opposite.

Much like in Make New Friends but Keep Discord, where she said Discord and Tree Hugger would get along well, Fluttershy is encouraging Discord to make some new friends. But with Discord, making new friends is easier said than done. His remark about sidekicks feels like breaking the fourth wall, a trait that’s shared between multiple writers of Discord episodes. It reminds me of his remark in the season 6 finale about a strange collection of supporting characters.

Admit it. If you watched this scene on a computer, you probably took a screenshot, inverted the colors, and were surprised that the colors don’t exactly match up.

The gag where Discord creates an alternate reality where everything is opposite, complete with a mean version of Fluttershy, is relevant to this episode’s plot. It shows an ability that he’s going to use a ton when he spends time with Spike and Big Mac.

I love Fluttershy’s blush after briefly behaving rudely SO much.

Discord is very reluctant to make new friends, and he’s unamused at Fluttershy’s remark that he may be afraid they won’t like him. He says he will consider it, but then he pops into Fluttershy’s bag pleading to come anyway. I think he wasn’t scared Spike and Big Macintosh wouldn’t like him until Fluttershy made her remark, and now he’s extra worried to spend time with those guys.

The cutesy shy girl wearing cutesy winter clothes is the perfect combination to melt my heart.

Discord’s episodes vary widely in terms of how much he uses his powers, and for an episode with such low stakes, he uses his powers to extreme levels. With a single snap of his fingers, he creates a volcano that the train tracks lead into, and Fluttershy only needs to raise an eyebrow for Discord to change it back.

Big Macintosh pushes Applejack into the train so he can start his super secret plans as quickly as possible, and the girls tease him and Spike in response.

Twilight Sparkle: I bet you boys have big plans, right, Spike?
Spike: I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.
(Big Macintosh nods)
Spike: Although if I did, I certainly wouldn’t be allowed to discuss it with you girls.

I like that this episode portrays the guys as goofy and boyish without making them unlikable. The fact is, preteen boys love to act like they’re too cool for the girls, and it’s really funny that Spike’s adult friend plays along with that. It shows that Big Mac has a childish side, much like most adult fans of the show do.

I love the gag where Spike cautiously whispers everything about the guy’s night out, and everyone knows about it anyway. It just feels so distinctly Spike.

After some nervousness, Discord agrees to go on a guys’ night out with Spike and Big Mac. He thinks it’s going to be a fun, rowdy dance party, and Spike doesn’t correct him. It’s clear that Spike and Big Mac don’t want to miss the opportunity to add someone extra to their group. There aren’t that many male characters who live in Ponyville; the main ones I can think of are Cranky Doodle Donkey, who is an extremely private guy, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ male classmates like Snips and Snails, Featherweight, or Pipsqueak, none of whom Spike significantly interacts with. I guess there’s also background ponies like Dr. Whooves, but it’s more interesting for the guys’ night out to consist of well-established characters who we’ve gotten to know quite well.

When Discord misunderstands what Spike means by playing a game and tries playing charades, Spike says the following:

Spike: Uh, I’m talking about a real game.
Discord: Oh, you mean like trapping best friend ponies in hedge mazes, and turning them against each other. Those were the days.

Unlike other reformed villains such as Starlight Glimmer, Discord barely seems to regret his evil actions, whether they were when he first brought mayhem to Equestria, or when he was first unfrozen. If Fluttershy were here, she would say “Discord!” with a stern expression, and he’d awkwardly laugh and apologize. She’s an expert at keeping Discord from getting too crazy, and now Big Mac and Spike are put up to the challenge.

The later we get into the show, the more Big Macintosh’s portrayal is inspired by nerdy fans.

Spike introduces Discord to the game they’ll be playing: Ogres and Oubliettes, an in-universe counterpart to the famous tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons. Discord looks horrified at this, because it doesn’t match his idea of fun at all.

Spike reveals the setting of this game, with a villain whose name he and Big Mac both snicker at: the Squizard.

Spike: The Squizard has laid siege to the last free city in Spiketopia. That’s the name of the land. He’s kidnapped a beautiful unicorn princess named Shmarity.
Spike: Uh… which is like a… normal name in Spiketopia so, you know, don’t think about it too much.
Discord: Fear not. Your romantic delusions are safe with me. (zips his mouth)

Blatantly naming the damsel in distress in this game after Rarity and then getting embarrassed about it is the most Spike thing ever. Since he and Big Mac both agreed to this character name, I have to wonder if Big Mac also finds Rarity attractive. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.

Spike’s character is a wizard named Garbunkle, and Big Mac’s character is a unicorn knight named Sir McBiggen. Since his daily life is the most mundane of the Apple siblings, it makes sense that he likes to use his imagination to make up some of his own wild adventures. Given that he quickly pushed Applejack into the train, he doesn’t seem to want his siblings to know he likes this sort of stuff, much like a brony who doesn’t share interest in MLP with the rest of his family.

Discord’s character is called Captain Wuzz, a name he made up as a spiteful joke, and upon random selection, he’s an archer.

Whenever any group of characters play an RPG, one of them will completely miss the point and not understand why it’s fun. Discord doesn’t see any joy in playing a fantasy game where the success of his actions comes from a roll of the dice, because he already has a bunch of real-life magic powers. The truth is that not everyone will enjoy all your nerdy interests, and you may need to make it a little different so that everyone can have a good time.

Discord brings the guys to a nightclub, which is what he imagined the guys’ night out to be—presumably because it’s an easier place for Discord to bring some chaos. Spike is seemingly excited to see a good-looking mare at the club…

… but instead, he walks to a table that he says is perfect for Ogres and Oubliettes, which is adorably innocent of him. A lot of people like to play tabletop RPGs at public places like this, and I like to imagine Spike and Big Mac have played this game together at a restaurant or coffee shop while wearing goofy disguises. That explains why everyone would know their “secret”. Discord keeps getting in the way, and when he finally agrees to join Spike and Big Mac in the game, he makes things a little different.

Though Big Mac became an alicorn in a dream, it seems he normally prefers making his OC a unicorn.

Discord makes Ogres and Oubliettes real, and Spike and Big Mac are delighted at first. The strong presence of various types of dice suggests that Discord thinks the dice are part of the game’s world, since he’s very unfamiliar with how these games work.

The game becomes terrifying to Spike and Big Mac when Discord presents them with real hazards. Discord still finds it fun to run a show where he terrorizes others, just like he did in his first appearance, and he doesn’t understand that it isn’t as pleasant for the people being terrorized. It makes me realize how gradual his character development is. Though he’s learned not to mess with the Mane 6, he’ll still put anyone else through peril if he wants to, just because they haven’t turned him to stone.

Spike: Why are you doing this? You’re the worst!
Discord: If I’m the worst, then why did you invite me?
Spike: Because we felt bad for you!
Discord: Because you… WHAT?!

Thinking about it, it’s rather sweet that Spike let Discord come over for the night. As he explains when transported back home, he saw that Discord badly wanted to join Fluttershy on her trip, so he and Big Mac decided to make up for it by letting him participate in their top secret activity. Discord was completely ungrateful about it, and he can’t process the idea that anyone would feel sorry for someone as mighty and powerful as him.

Discord claims that he’s going to visit “lots of other friends”, even though the only person other than Fluttershy he even remotely treats like a friend is Celestia. He and Celestia are powerful beings who have lived for thousands of years, and they share similar senses of humor and enjoyment of mischief and overall get each other. Discord also owes some gratitude to Celestia, since she was the one who unfroze him. Though he’s normally mischievous and full of himself, we’ve seen before that he really doesn’t take it well when a friend ditches him. An example is when Tirek betrayed their temporary alliance, which he didn’t expect at all.

When Discord walks away, he wishes the best for Garbunkle and Sir McBiggen, then says the game doesn’t sound that bad when he says it that way. Much like Rainbow Dash back in season 2, Discord is learning not to knock something before trying it, which is especially important to know when someone wants to introduce you to their nerdy interest.

When Spike says “Captain Wuzz? Can you hear me?” Discord poofs back into the scene, which has some unsettling implications. Can he always hear conversations that take place this far away, and if so, does he use that ability to spy on ponies? Let’s not think about it too hard. He forces out an apology and gets on with the game, finally as excited about it as Spike and Big Mac are.

Spike: What if we forgot the board and the pieces for a minute?
Spike: I mean, the whole game coming to life was completely terrifying, but also kind of the best thing ever! So, uh… Big Mac and I were wondering, what if you toned it down just a teensy bit?

Spike is starting to enjoy the same thing Fluttershy has said about Discord: he makes their hangout times a lot more lively and unpredictable with his magic powers. I can especially see why Big Mac is excited about it: he spends most of his time working at the farm and doesn’t get to go on wild adventures like his siblings, so these gaming sessions let him show some of his adventurous side.

“Now why in tarnation does Big Mac have a horn now?” I imagine Applejack thinking.

The next morning, the Mane 6 return from their trip to find Spike, Big Macintosh, and Discord having a blast playing real-life Ogres and Oubliettes. Fluttershy must be very proud of Discord for making new friends, and I’m happy he’s gotten a new group of characters to interact with. It gives his episodes some more variety beyond focusing on his relationship with Fluttershy.

The mares get warrior outfits when they enter the other half of the room, suggesting that Big Mac can’t just go walking around Ponyville with a horn on his head.
(As much as he would love to.)

Twilight Sparkle pretends she has no idea what the guys are up to, which I find sweet in a distinctly Twilight way. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie join in on the fun, which suggests that whatever adventures the Mane 6 got up to, they weren’t too intensive or exhausting—maybe that’s why we didn’t get a concurrent episode where the Mane 6 go to Yakyakistan. It’s weird that their first time visiting Yakyakistan was before our first time seeing it in person, but that’s beside the point of this episode. The episode ends with a nice little group shot of two girls joining the guys’ night out.

Overall thoughts:

This episode throws a bone to Spike, Big Macintosh, and Discord all at once by putting them into a new friend group, and the three of them interact quite a bit in later seasons. As far as Discord’s episodes go, this one is pretty low-stakes and of the slice of life type, making it a break from the more intense episodes of season 6. It’s amusing that it took six seasons to get an episode solely focused on male characters, but it’s also satisfying since this show has had male fans from the start, and having a new friend group of boys gives male viewers situations they can easily relate to.

Grade: B

Much of the episode consists of Discord being annoyingly difficult, but the resolution makes up for it.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Discord’s nickname for Celestia, “Cay-Cay”, makes so much more sense to call Cadance than Celestia. I imagine that whenever Discord uses that nickname, Celestia laughs loudly while Luna and everyone else rolls their eyes.
  • Dungeons & Dragons was acquired by Hasbro in 2022, which means that if this episode aired today, it could totally use the game’s original name. But it probably would have used a similar-sounding name anyway because that’s a lot more fun.
  • It’s worth mentioning that the Squizard has the same voice actor as Big Macintosh. I think this means that when he and Spike play Ogres and Oubliettes, Big Mac voices the Squizard but doesn’t talk much otherwise. It would match the running gag of Big Mac saying more than “eyup” and “nope” offscreen.

Next up, another pair of characters tries a game that you wouldn’t expect them to enjoy: Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy.

See you next week as Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie play some sports, and we meet a griffon beloved by fans.

>> Part 71: Buckball Season + The Fault in Our Cutie Marks

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