These reviews do contain spoilers. Read on at your own discretion.
If you've been a long time watcher of me, you know that Spike has pretty much been my favorite character in FiM. While his episodes have had a reputation for being mediocre at best, that has since changed after the disaster of Princess Spike. His episodes have now gotten better, he's being used more and contributes a lot more, and he's had some character development. He's definitely much better handled than how the show started up until season 5.
Molt Down though offers something we never thought we'd see in a Spike episode. In a big surprise, this episode does something that nobody was expecting. If you've seen the leaks, or at least the commercials promoting it, then you know what I'm talking about. What we get from such an episode like this is arguably one of the best Spike episodes ever made. It takes on something most people can relate to Spike about and do it well. Not only is this episode easily one of Spike's best episodes, it's easily one of the best the season has put out yet.
Spike is dealing with some troublesome stone scales that have him itching and in pain. The next day though, he discovers his entire face is covered in them and he's suffering constant problems from constant volume changes to sudden indigestion. He soon finds out that he's going through what's known as the molting; a process in which all dragons grow up and go through what Spike is going through. When he learns though about the dark things that happens to dragons that grow, Spike is worried about what will happen to him and tries to stop the molting.
The entire episode's premise is based on something everyone has to deal with; growing up. In particular, it deals with puberty and how it can affect others. The concept isn't bad at all as it's something kids eventually have to go through, or are already going through. This kind of thing would be something I think the Cutie Mark Crusaders would tackle in some way, but I do appreciate that it's a Spike centered episode instead.
Spike himself is written well once again in this episode. Compared to Triple Threat, he's better written here and isn't being as paranoid as last time. We do see he still continues to help Rarity out, but also still seems to have a crush on her and tries to woo her. He also does manage to make time to go see his former pet, Peewee; who's also grown up since we've last seen him. It's good see after all this time to see Peewee and Spike still look out for him.
There's some character development for Spike in this episode about his feelings towards molting and him growing up. One of the great things about this episode is how relatable Spike is in this episode about what happens going through puberty. He's naturally worried about what's going to happen to him and the changes he's going through. It can be rough for people going through puberty, and I think the episode handles something like this well.
We do get some more lore on dragons in general about the molting. Smolder tells Spike about what happens to dragons that begin to molt and the side effects too such as the volume pitch, the itching, and the rancid smell. It's also revealed that dragons kick out their own kids at the very first sign of the molting. To make matters worse, the smell they have attracts large predators such as Rocs. You know, between the fact that dragons kick their kids out the moment they start molting, and the fact that dealing with all those dangerous predators by themselves possibly leaving psychological scars, I'm understanding now why most dragons grew up to be jerks and are so cold.
Much like last week's story, the plot is pretty predictable, but at least it's still entertaining. If you've seen some of the stories involving somebody undergoing a radical and gross change, you have a good idea what to expect. Still, the story itself is far from bad as the pacing is pretty solid, the characters are well written, and it does have Spike go through a character arc. There's nothing really wrong with the story as a whole; even if it is a bit predictable.
The episode also does seem to borrow a lot of elements from another TV show that did a plot similar to this; Teen Titans (And no, I'm not talking about the God awful GO! revival). In one episode, Starfire underwent a radical transformation herself and emerged with new abilities. A lot of plot points from that episode seem to be very similar to this episode. I wouldn't call it a ripoff though as this show and Teen Titans aren't the first shows to do a plot like this. I'm not sure if Josh Haber, who wrote this episode, was inspired by that episode and made an homage to it or not.
In some way though, this episode feels like a spiritual sequel, or possibly a revisit, to Secret of my Excess. Some of the plot points are similar to that episode from Spike undergoing a radical change, to Zecora being a part of the episode and even some brief moments of Sparity shipping. They even reference the episode several times here. Although I do enjoy SomE, I do think this episode handles some things better here than in that episode.
The comedy is something that leaves something to be desired. While most of the jokes are pretty good, some running gags feel like they overstay their welcome. The constant shouting is something that gets a bit tiring after a while. It feels kind of forced in to make it funny, but feels pretty lousy after a while. Plus, the constant volume pitch change from Spike is another one that kind of falls flat.
Eventually, Spike goes to Zecora and they both encounter a Roc; adding another new creature to Equestria. Rarity also gets caught and Twilight soon learns of what happened and goes off to save both of her friends. During this time, Spike feels worse and worse. Eventually, he evolves into Metapod! Nah, just kidding, he turns into a stone statue. It's here at this time we get to what the big moment of this episode is. The moment we've all been waiting for and the day has finally come:
Spike finally gets wings.
If you had somehow missed the leaked episodes or the commercials promoting this episode, this was a huge shocker. After seven seasons, Spike finally earns his wings through the molt. Needless to say, it was a huge moment for him to have some physical growth that's natural instead of it being greed induced. Not only does his new design look good, but this also opens up a lot of possibilities for Spike being able to fly now. It's taken us a long time, but it's about time Spike finally earns his wings and starts to fly around with Twilight and some of his other friends.
However, I do admit I have one problem with this molting. While it's awesome Spike gets wings, they don't bother to make him any taller. I mean, come on, they went to make Spike have wings, but I honestly feel they should've at least made him taller. Why not just make him as tall as Smolder? I think they really missed a good chance to have him grow taller a bit. I'm hoping now that Spike has grown to have wings, he'll grow taller somewhere in the future.
So Spike, going into full bad ass mode, uses his new wings to fly up and take on the Roc. In a bit of a callback to Equestria Games, Spike uses a big flame blast to burn the Roc to a crisp and manages to save Rarity from falling, while Twilight saves Zecora. This leads to our moral about the difficulty of growing up and something we can all learn too. While we all have to grow up and leave the nest eventually, the people who love and care about you will be there to help you get through it together. It's a very solid moral and something we can all relate to.
Our episode ends with Spike helping Rarity out again. She's very ecstatic that Spike's wings means he can now help her out with almost any type of clothing now. Spike asks if the wings he got mean something more to Rarity, but she just lists off other clothing for him to try. Not sure if she's playing hard to get or not for Spike. Maybe one day though, they'll revisit this shipping again and try to go forward with it.
Molt Down is another fantastic Spike episode, and one of the best of the season. Compared to Triple Threat in the last season, this is a huge step up for Spike. It not only has character development for him, but he undergoes a new change and opens the door for him with his new wings. I still think Gauntlet of Fire is Spike's best episode, but this one comes close to how good it is. It's certainly another strong entry for Spike and he shines great here.
The plot is pretty predictable, but I can overlook that because of how entertaining it is. The writing is really good with solid characterization for everyone involved. It had plenty of callbacks to past episodes. As a revisit/sequel to Secret of my Excess, it improves in some ways and handles some of the elements better. There's more lore built around dragons; albeit we learn that dragon parents are really dickish to their kids. The episode is really great, and one of Spike's best episodes since season six.
This episode is easily one of the best episodes of the season so far. As far as ranking is concern, I'm not sure if this beats out Horse Play or not, so I think it's only fair both of them be considered best of the season for the time being. This is an excellent Spike episode that's right up there with Gauntlet of Fire. The lore around dragons, the character development for Spike, him being a bad ass at the end, and it has plenty of callbacks to past episodes. The comedy may get stale eventually, and there's the fact that Spike doesn't grow taller, but that's enough to make this episode bad. It's a fantastic episode all around and it definitely earns itself to be one of the best of the season.
There's supposed to be another Spike episode coming up in the near future. This one has another big surprise for Spike fans like me we never thought we'd see. If it lives up to its expectations, this may end up being Spike's season to own again like in season six. It's amazing that after all the trial and errors with him, Spike has gone from being something of a joke, to being awesome and being a bad ass. Now that is excellent character growth there.
FINAL SCORE: 9 out of 10 (A-)
Season eight episodes ranking from best to worse:
Horse Play/Molt Down (NEW AND TIED)
Surf and/or Turf
Horse Play/Molt Down (NEW AND TIED)
Surf and/or Turf
The Break Up Breakdown
Grannies Gone WildNon-Compete Clause
The Parent Map
The Maud Couple
Fake it Til You Make it
The Parent Map
The Maud Couple
Fake it Til You Make it