...Okay, now all the hate and sarcasm aside:
In my opinion, this episode was bad. Really bad. I don't normally do images that outwardly express my disapproval about something, but this episode was like a freaking kick in the groin.
First of all, we have Spike suddenly throwing away all attempts to use his brain, and instead behaving like a golem or a summoned minion who has no own personality or mind and can only follow the orders of their master, no matter how ridiculous, boring, tiresome, or hard they might be. HE NEVER BEHAVED LIKE THAT. I know him as a good-natured person who considers Twilight as her very close friend, maybe ever sister or mother, can think for himself in times of need, sometimes has to be smarter than ponies surrounding him... shortly saying, all the characterization he had practically EVERYWHERE ELSE, in THIS episode is thrown right through an open window of a building standing on top of an active volcano. (He DOES finally wake up when he discovers that the timberwolf is a fake, but that isn't even remotely close to making up for an entire episode of braindead Spike.) Even the supposed reason for him serving Applejack is ridiculous. Just in case you don't remember, in The Crystal Empire, when Spike is falling off the palace, he is saved by Cadence who catches him before King Sombra can (probably) kill him. WHY DIDN'T HE START BOTHERING HER
WITH HIS "CODE"? And as if that wasn't bad enough, he goes all "brb, I'm gonna tell Twilight that I'm leaving" as if it wasn't much of a deal. Excuse me, but did any of the writers watch/read The Crystal Empire before writing this? Particularly the part where SPIKE'S GREATEST FEAR IS BEING SENT AWAY FROM TWILIGHT? Because, well, what he did in THIS episode kinda COMPLETELY CONTRADICTS IT.
And then we have the timberwolves. Okay, fine, I can understand that they are VERY complex. I noticed that myself when I tried to make a vector of one and ultimately decided to include just the head because of how freaking hard it would be to make a full one. However, when I look back at the Family Appreciation Day - the episode where timberwolves debuted - I can't help but notice that the Flash version of timberwolves was already pretty impressive, well animated and seen from a couple of angles. Which raises a question WHY NOT JUST USE IT? Would it be THAT hard to just extend what you already had a little more and just go with it? I certainly could stand a bunch of perfectly fitting 2D timberwolves with, maybe, various animation errors that are only visible if you pay close attention... as opposed to obvious, completely out of place 3D models that just scream "HEEEEY. HEEEEY. WE ARE 3D MODELS IN A 2D SHOW THAT NEVER NEEDED THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE. LOOK HOW FREAKING COOL WE ARE." And if you take a close look at them, you'll notice that every single object that creates those timberwolves has black outlines, minus the eyebrows - while nearly everything else in this show has coloured outlines. Were they even freaking TRYING to make them fit? Oh, and here's the best part: the giant timberwolf from the episode's last minutes IS NOT A 3D MODEL. If they actually took the time to make HIM a 2D Flash-animated creature, and regular timberwolves were already 2D in the past... well, you get the idea I think.
Those are the two major problems I had with this episode, but its terribleness seems to not end on just that - it extends also to various small details that I can't quite put my finger on right now, but in the end, they all contribute to the episode's level of badness. One thing I can tell for sure is that practically NONE of the characters performed well in this episode, with an exception of Rarity and Applejack. Everything else seemed forced, unconvincing, and without much idea behind it. Heck, in the Mare Do Well episode the characters were at least TRYING to be interesting (even if in a bad way). Here, they are just bland and weak.
And amongst all of this, we have Applejack. I won't deny, she and RD are my least favourite Main Six members. That doesn't mean that I dislike them however - they can be interesting and entertaining characters too, it's just that they are not my thing. But I can't help but notice that as of late, AJ doesn't do well in her dedicated episodes. Apple Family Reunion turned out rather meh, The Last Roundup got outshined by Derpy, and this episode fell victim to the Merriwether's Curse at full power. It's as if after her performance in Season 1 (particularly the Applebuck Season episode), Applejack decided to stay among background characters, and doesn't know what to do when the spotlight decides to stop on her. Can you blame her, with Overly Loyal Spike and CGI Timberwolves falling right onto her head, out of bucking nowhere?
As I previously mentioned, this episode could have worked A LOT better if they used Rarity instead of Applejack. Not only would we get our Rarity episode of the season (some people are already starting to call her a background pony with the recent lack of episodes dedicated to her), but also, to quote a certain opinion I found:"The actual episode (with AJ) showed us that Rarity, unlike AJ, would not have been immediately reluctant to Spike's services. Therefore, not only would she learn that Spike can be TOO helpful at times, but that even the element of generosity is capable of taking advantage. The other 5 would distance themselves from Rarity as they realized what she was doing to Spike, and the ending where Spike would save Rarity would not only serve as the episode's lesson, but would further strengthen their relationship."
Wouldn't THAT be better? And make MUCH more sense with Spike's overdedication to his so called "Dragon Code", which could easily be explained with just him trying to mask the fact that he does all of this simply because of his love for Rarity?
I mentioned previously that both this episode and Mare Do Well were written by Merriwether Williams. Now, I'm not saying that she's a completely terrible writer and fails at about everything she does. Putting Your Hoof Down was, in my opinion, great. Heart's Warming Eve was okay. Wonderbolts Academy was okay. And while many say that Dragon Quest was bad, I think it was quite fine; one thing that stands out about it is that at least Spike has a perfectly good characterization from start to finish (maybe except the part with keeping the egg instead of returning it) - a stark contrast to what we got in THIS episode. I'm definitely not saying that Merriwether is doing bad all the time. However, has any other writer committed genuinely bad episodes? No. And she committed TWO.
If you enjoyed the episode as it is, then well, good for you I guess. I, for one, am NOT going to return to it in the future.
Let's just hope that the upcoming episode, which I'm REALLY anticipating, won't be nearly as bad as this one.
PS: You can get the header image and its SVG here: sta.sh/01dsz59607dm