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December 30, 2012
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...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.

.: Read the comments :. Stamp by Beti-Kot


PS: You can get the header image and its SVG here: sta.sh/01dsz59607dm
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:iconcoonfoot:
Coonfoot Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2013  Hobbyist Filmographer
Merri's just one of those on-again-off-again writers. She either makes a very good episode or a noticeably bad one. When you see her name in the opening credits, you know the end result is going to be a crap shoot. I'm a fan of many a show that have at least one writer like that.
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:iconumiyuri:
Umiyuri Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2013  Student Filmographer
"However, has any other writer committed genuinely bad episodes?"

...Dave Polsky wrote Over a Barrel and Keep Calm and Flutter On (which admittedly wasn't out when this rant was written), and wrote the story part of Spike At Your Service. Any general story issues for the episode go to -him- rather than Williams, who wrote the -script-.

Over a Barrel was sort of... there's a word which describes it perfectly in all its nuances, messages and motives, but if I mention it, I will be called out as being angry for no reason. It starts with an 'r'.
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:iconibeatganon4fun:
Ibeatganon4fun Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2013
I seem to notice a bit of consistency with Merriwether's tendency to break continuity in the characters' personalities.
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:iconletekky:
LeTekky Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2013
I disagree, I see it as her putting the characters to test, chalanging them, taking them to their limits. A personality is not something as strict and limiting as fans seem to make them out to be.
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:iconibeatganon4fun:
Ibeatganon4fun Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013
There's nothing wrong with stretching a character's personality, as long as it doesn't break continuity or go unexplained when it does.
With Spitfire's personality change, the fact that she and Rainbow already know each other is completely ignored, and no explanation is given as to why her personality changed so drastically. Not okay as far as I'm concerned. Especially when it would've been so easy to rectify by, say, making a different Wonderbolt in charge of the new recruits.
As for Spike acting clumsy and mindless, In Owl's Well That Ends Well we see that he's an awesome assistant; perfectly competent. While he does have a childlike mind, we've seen that it's not nearly as one-track as Merriwether made it in Spike At Your Service.
It doesn't aid a creative endeavor to introduce in a character new traits that contradict those that have already been established. Unless it comes with a reasonable explanation as to why they changed.
Of course a personality should be dynamic, but everything still needs to make sense.
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:iconletekky:
LeTekky Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2013
There are established personalities, and then there are fan assumptions.
Spitfire never really had much of a personality to change, just her dealing with citizens and fans, not the same as being a drill sergeant dealing with recruits. It would have been wrong and unfair to treat Rainbow Dash differently.
Spike is competent, and this episode is no exception. He ends up cleaning the pig perfectly (Not his fault that the pig jumped into mud anyway), he still manages to make a pie (Even if a disgusting one), he makes a stone tower just as asked, he brings a light to Twilight at the end so she can study better, and when the situation asked for it he saved Applejack's life by throwing a rock with amazing precision and freeing her hoof using a stick as a lever. Thing is, there are more factors into play. Just because we saw him bringing baked goods to the ponies in "Dragon Quest", that doesn't mean he won't have a problem preparing an specific pie without a recipe, using tools and ingredients he is not familiar with, from a farm. More importantly, he is under pressure; in "Owl's Well That Ends Well" he fears being replaced, so he inadvertently causes a lot of disorder just to find a quill; here, his life had been saved moments ago, he feels he owes Applejack his life, he is nervous and in a hurry to repay her, wich makes him accidentally throw the apples and the cleaning tools, and go right into making a pie without completely knowing how to prepare it in that situation; later he thinks Twilight doesn't care about him, wich adds to his issues. All the other times he didn't feel anything personal was at risk based on how he delivered, but he does in these two episodes, and that is reflected in how he acts. I'm sure fans would have found it odd had Spike kept doing everything perfectly even though he almost died moments ago.
Another example; in "Dragon Quest" at one point Spike rejects Rarity's affections. Naturally, some fan blamed Merriwether Williams for making Spike "act out of character" since he is supposed to be madly in love with Rarity and stuff. Thing is... Spike didn't like Rarity treating him like a little child and trying to stop him from following the other dragons, not taking his words seriously, as he was having issues with his identiy and wanted to find answers. It's like these people want his crush on Rarity to be his only character trait.
I end up feeling that most of the time, fans talk about complex things like personality basing themselves on oversimplifications, and their claims would actually make bland characters. At least with the criticism towards episodes written by Merriwether William, hardly ever acknowledging the good things (Like Applejack, the element of honesty, being a very obviously bad actress), while all the other episodes get a pass.
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:iconibeatganon4fun:
Ibeatganon4fun Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2013
:iconlikeasirplz: I was wrong, and concede to you in defeat. Clearly you have bested me in the arena of intellectual combat.

Even so, my emotions continue willing me to maintain certain opinions of certain things. Yet again I am faced with the desire to be Vulcan so that I may understand things only logically without emotional bias. Alas, this will never be the case. So, in my mind it remains unfitting for Spitfire to have behaved the way Merriwether had her, and no amount rational reasoning will be able to change that. It remains unfitting for Spike to have performed the actions Merriwether had him, and again, no amount of rational reasoning will change that. It's too bad; ideally, I would simply enjoy every episode unconditionally, but this is no ideal world we live in, and we as humans are prone to assumption and preconceived notion as you pointed out.

Anyway, I don't really want to argue, friend, or debate. ...Were we arguing? :iconfluttershyisshyplz: I'm sorry if we were...
How about a hug instead? [link]
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:iconletekky:
LeTekky Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2013
I envy you for replying like a sir.

I have no say about how you feel, or anything against it either; it's just better to treat it for what it is (That is, how one feels) instead of making it look like something else; we don't know how the production of an episode goes (But I'm willing to bet is complex) and at least I am no professional in script-writting, so I'll rather (try to) look at the possibilities and apreciate as much as I can.

Personally, I always imagined the Timber Wolves as tragic, even heroic creatures who resent the ponies for taking away some of the Zap Apples that (I assumed) they protected, instead of your typical monster of the week. But I can't complain for the show not going by my head-canon, and I was still interested by the things that were added to them (Their re-designs, that they had an unmistakable odor, the big one at the end, and especially that they could rebuild themselves), even if I feel they could have been something more, and even then I have to admit that the comedic bits made them more likable, wich considering the role they had, it was better than nothing. It worked, while I can't say my headcanon would had.

I just hope you weren't worked up about replying to my post; I'm sorry if that was the case, It's not worth it. To be honest, I had some of the fandom in general in mind rather than you when replying.

And 'key, hug [link]
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:iconibeatganon4fun:
Ibeatganon4fun Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2013
Cease your envy. Replace it with pride! For yourself, of course. I've won countless debates in the past, and I'd like to think of myself, at the very least, competent at presenting a solid argument. That being said, this was the first time someone has so thoroughly refuted my stance with such an in-depth viewpoint while at the same time earning a degree of my respect high enough that I felt it was finally appropriate to respond in no other manner than I did. I salute you, sir. :iconrainbowdashsaluteplz:

I don't tend to become heated about, well, anything really. Needless to say, it was indeed quite the opposite of heated in this case. By the time I finished reading the admittedly intimidating wall of text that was your response, I was grinning from ear to ear. :icontwilightheeplz:
I understand your stance wasn't personal, friend.

Huh. Which one of us is which in that scenario, then? :iconrarityknowsplz:
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:iconletekky:
LeTekky Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2013
Really, your attitude is inspiring.


I was thinking about pointing this out here: [link]

While I still think Spike's clumsiness was understandable, it's worth considering that it was originally going to be a Rarity episode, but was changed into an Applejack one to not make Rarity "mean" (Whatever that means). It's easy(er) to imagine Spike wreaking havoc by trying to help Rarity in her boutique.
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