Gauntlet of Fire
SPOILER ALERT! Those of you who have not seen the show, be warned. This review is going to contain spoilers about the episode. If you have not seen it yet, watch it right now and read my review in 20 minutes, or prepare to have some of the critical plot mentioned before you view it. I am assuming many of you are bronies, or fans of the show, and you are reading this review for an interesting insight on an episode you have seen countless times already (as have I), in which case, continue reading, and enjoy!
The episode begins with the commonly shipped duo of Spike and Rarity spending some quality time together searching for gems in a cave full of bats. Spike’s scale start glowing brightly, and the light wakes up the bats, driving the two out of the cave and to Twilight’s castle for help. Luna and Celestia were enjoying a visit with Twilight, who were familiar with Spike’s condition: he was being summoned, and needed to visit the Dragon Lands. This reminded me a bit of the show Dragon Tales, which I used to watch as a child.
Spike asks Twilight and Rarity to go to the Dragon Lands with him. Twilight is eager, as it will give her lots of information on a species that is relatively unknown, and Rarity is willing to go as well.
In the Dragon Lands, all of the other summoned dragons are there, with scales glowing like Spike’s. One of the dragons from a previous episode, Garble is there, and continues to make fun of Spike, consistent with his previous behavior in the show. Twilight and Rarity are disguised from the dragons as a rock, which Spike was sitting on. Garble, a much larger dragon take’s Spike’s spot on the rock, squishing the ponies.
At this point, Dragon Lord Torch arrives. He is a massive dragon and the other dragons do whatever he says. His daughter, Princess Ember is next to him. It is time for Torch to step down, and rather than having Ember take his place, the dragons are all supposed to compete in the Gauntlet of Fire, a competition in which the winner is crowned Lord of the Dragons.
In order to win, a dragon must retrieve a scepter from the flamecano. When the scepter is thrown there, the dragons all stop glowing. Spike, being the little dragon that he is, wants no part of this competition, though. With support from Ember, Torch allows Spike to go home and not compete. Ember, however, is not allowed to compete, since her father says she is not much bigger than Spike. She argues that she is smarter, but he says that does not matter.
When Spike hears other dragons talking about what they want to do as Dragon Lord (make burps a greeting, pillage pillows from ponies, and take things from and burn Equestria). Spike realizes there is no other way to keep his friends safe, and that he must compete in the Gauntlet of Fire and win, so he can be the Dragon Lord and protect the ponies.
Flying to the flamecano was the first challenge, and since Spike can’t fly, he swims. And also, Garble pushed him in the water. Rarity and Twilight are in the water, disguised as seaweed, to cheer Spike on. The trip to the flamecano is dangerous, and there are large sea monsters that jet out of the water. They knock many dragons down.
One of the dragons is Ember, who decided to go against her father’s wishes and compete. Spike rescues her from drowning. Ember discovers that the seaweed was hiding the ponies, and asks what they are doing there. Spike explains they are friends, but Ember tells him that dragons don’t do friends. Ember also says she will prove to her father that there are more important things than being big and strong. That girl seems pretty cool, and I already know that either she or Spike will win.
Garble gets trapped under a rock that was thrown, and Spike goes to rescue him, as Ember puts her helmet on and the ponies hide in the seaweed again. Garble says he knew Spike would help him, since the ponies made him soft, and kicks sand on Spike. He then smells the scent of ponies, but Ember claims it is her, since she stole from ponies on her way. Garble thinks this is cool, but also notices that she looks familiar, to which Spike says that she is his old neighbor. The two both helped each other out and decide to work together to get through the gauntlet. Somehow the two ponies manage to make it through the many dangerous obstacles as well.
Spike risks his life to save Rarity. Sparity shippers rejoice. Ember splits off from Spike, claiming they were not friends and it is every dragon for themselves. When Spike is almost to the scepter, Garble arrives and tries to take him down. During this, the ponies are exposed. Ember swoops in and saves Spike and his friends and Spike goes to get the scepter.
When Spike orders Garble to leave Ember alone and go home, hugging everyone along the way, Garble obeys. These dragons are highly obedient, which shocks me. Only Ember seemed to do what she wanted and break some rules. Rather than staying there as Dragon Lord, Spike hands the scepter to Ember, who flies back to her father with it, allowing her to be the new Dragon Lord. Her father is angry at first, but Ember convinces him there is more to being big and strong, so Torch then feels confident that his daughter will make a wonderful leader.
Ember will be a good leader. We already know she is kind, and will not hurt the ponies and Equestria. She also said Twilight can ask her questions about anything related to dragon culture. Rarity also has an idea for a new camouflage fashion line, Camo-Maud, likely in reference to the rock disguise the ponies wore. Twilight, Rarity, and Spike all return happily home.
This episode was good, but not great. I do love the design of Ember. I am sure some people will begin to ship her and Spike, though the only ship I fully support is still Starlight Glimmer and Sunburst. In addition to Ember, having a large focus on Spike is nice, as previous seasons lacked Spike episodes. Still, he played a large role in the opener for this season, and it seems a bit soon for another Spike episode. I would prefer more development on Starlight Glimmer, as she is Twilight’s new student.
Although learning about the dragon race and seeing a new place was very cool, the episode in general was slightly boring, and not as funny as many. The only part that was funny to me was the dragon wanting to make burps a standardized greeting. I also did not find the lessons to be as relateable as previous ones, although I suppose a small child watching the show might realize they do not need to be big and strong. Of course, I love MLP, and will likely never hate an episode. I will just say that this one was a bit of a disappointment to me.