Recap: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S2 E21 "Dragon Quest"
A SPIKE draws near! Command?
Spike: I'm going on a quest of self-discovery! I'm going to learn what it means to be a dragon! And the only way I'm gonna do that is to join the Dragon Migration!
Written by Merriwether Williams
On the outskirts of Ponyville, the Mane Six are preparing a spot to watch a once-in-a-generation dragon migration (except Fluttershy, who still hasn't gotten over her fear of dragons and refuses to join the others). Spike is on hand (in a pink apron) to serve them tea and muffins, and Rainbow Dash can't help but poke fun at him for not being as intimidating as the full-grown dragons. The other girls chime in with their own thoughts on how Spike isn't big, tough and scary like the other dragons, and their remarks fill Spike with self-doubt.That night, Spike is still sad and restless from realizing he doesn't know where he came from. Twilight apologetically tells him she never knew where his egg came from, but offers to do research to help him find out his history. They go through the entire library, but come up with nothing; dragons are too reclusive (and scary) for ponies to learn much about them. When Rainbow Dash and Rarity show up to invite them to breakfast, Twilight accepts, but Spike announces that he's going to undertake a quest to find out who he is — by joining the dragon migration. Rarity and Rainbow Dash protest, but Twilight supports Spike's decision and encourages him to tell her everything when he returns. The girls wave Spike off with smiles on their faces, but as soon as he's out of earshot...
Rarity: We're following him, right? Twilight Sparkle: Of course.
Spike follows the dragon migration, crossing snowy peaks and deep dark forests to find the dragons roosting in the caldera of a volcano. Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity (in a hastily-constructed dragon costume) arrive shortly thereafter. The only dragons who deign to notice Spike are a group of adolescents, who immediately set to teasing Spike for not having wings and for being raised by ponies. They challenge him to prove his worth as a dragon through a belching contest, tail wrestling (which Spike wins because his opponent was the costumed ponies), King of the Hoard, and finally a lava cannonball contest. Spike does a belly-flop instead of a cannonball, but the older dragons are sufficiently impressed to declare him an official "rookie dragon". Then they take him along to raid a phoenix nest.As the rookie, Spike's task is to distract the phoenix parents while the other dragons steal the eggs. Prompted by the other dragons, he provokes the phoenixes into giving chase and leading them away from the nest. The adolescent dragons move in but the phoenix chicks, already hatched, fly circles around them. Their cries attract the phoenix parents, who return and drive the invaders away. Only Spike has any success in the raid; finding a single unhatched egg on the ground.The phoenix family flies off after scaring away the teen dragons; the teens, in turn, find Spike and his egg, then goad him to prove himself by smashing it. After a moment's hesitation, Spike refuses to bow to peer pressure, and when the gang turn on him, Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity arrive to defend their friend. Before a fight can begin, Spike makes a run for it, and the ponies follow. After a brief chase, Twilight teleports them to safety.Happily back in Ponyville, Spike writes a letter to Princess Celestia, explaining that he's learned that his real family are the ones who love and care for him. He also hatches the abandoned phoenix egg, and welcomes "Peewee" into their family.
Tropes present in this episode (YMMV tropes can be found here):
Adult Fear: Spike taking off to discover his true identity (especially since we know how mean dragons can get). Then he initially decides to stay with them forever.
Rarity to Spike several times because he's just precious!
Garble also gives Spike a noogie on becoming a dragon newbie, but this is far from affectionate. It probably didn't hurt that much considering how tough dragons are.
All There in the Script: The name of the red, leading dragon is Garble, as reported by Nayuki, one of the show's layout artist. Outside of Crackle, none of the other dragons were given names.
Anticlimax: Fluttershy tackles Rainbow Dash, stomps on her stomach, and makes a run for her back window to get away from joining the others to watch the Great Dragon Migration. She looks ready to smash through it, but instead, pauses, carefully opens the windows, and then jumps out.
Artistic License - Biology: One of the tubbier dragon teens has a belly button. Despite the fact that dragons are born from eggs and naturally would lack this. It was likely done for Rule of Funny, as there's something abnormal about heftier characters lacking this feature.
Spike suffers no damage after belly-flopping on a pool made of lava; not even after he accidentally gets a mouthful of it. His immunity to fire damage was already mentioned during "Griffon the Brush Off".
Spike joining the teenage dragons is very much like a child falling in with the wrong crowd.
There is also an Animal House/random college fraternity similarity, with Spike having undergone their hazing process. All in all, the teenage dragons are disturbingly similar to real bullies in the way that their emotional and physical abuse is portrayed.
The episode can be seen as Spike trying to act more like a boy, because the episode starts with him wearing a pink apron and having teas and crumpets. The word "pony" is even thrown around by the teen dragons in the same way a boy might use "girly". He's a boy but he hangs out with and is raised by females. He doesn't identify as overly masculine so he hangs out with more guys to try to identify better with them after being teased that he isn't "manly" enough, but in the end is comfortable identifying as whatever he likes, not what he biologically is. Rephrase it as such: A dragon who likes to hang out with ponies, hardly identifying as a dragon despite being biologically a dragon due to attention being drawn to the fact that he doesn't fit the stereotypes of a dragon, thinking he isn't enough of a dragon and goes off to hang out with dragons to be like dragons but in the end deciding he isn't really a "dragon" in the common sense.
The Drag-Along: Defied by Fluttershy. The episode starts with Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash trying to force Fluttershy to come to the Great Dragon Migration with them; Rainbow Dash tries to literally drag her there. Fluttershy is so adamant in her dislike of dragons that she's willing to jump out a window to avoid going. The girls decide to let her off the hook after that.
Dragon Hoard: "King of the Hoard" requires dragons to fight one another over a pile of treasure.
Dude, Where's My Respect?: Calling Princess Celestia, an alicorn royal with the godlike power to raise the sun, a "namby pamby princess pony"? Justified: the teen dragons have a "don't know; don't care" attitude to anything not directly affecting them.
Egg MacGuffin: An egg falls out from a phoenix nest and is separated from its parents. Spike decides to adopt it because it reminded him of his own origin.
Evil Albino: One of the teen dragons has white scales and pink eyes.
Fantastic Light Source: The father phoenix uses his fire powers to shine a bright aura in the teen dragons' faces.
Fantastic Racism: Dragons don't think much of ponies. They call Princess Celestia a "namby pamby pony princess".
You could make the argument that the reverse is true as well, going by some of the dialog the Mane Six have with Spike early in the episode. See Unfortunate Implications in the YMMV section for more on this.
Feather Fingers: Rainbow Dash's wings twitch almost like the fingers on a hand after Fluttershy runs over her.
Foreshadowing: The cold open has Fluttershy firmly saying "No" to something she was being pressured to do. In the episode's climax, Spike did the same thing to the bully dragons.
Gang Of Bullies: The teenage dragons with Garble as the leader; a rather disturbingly realistic version at that...
Gene Hunting: What Spike hopes to do. He never accomplishes this. The teenage dragons don't know any dragon like him — and they know one that looks like the ponies' bad dragon costume. While one of them does have similar coloring and fire color to him and another one is wingless like him, it's never implied they're related.
Good Old Fisticuffs: Twilight, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash put up their dukes to fight off the teen dragons, but they soon decide it's a better idea to make a run for it. Considering that even the athletic and tough Rainbow Dash was unable to make a dent in one the last time they attacked a dragon, it was a good idea. Those dragons may not have been fully grown but they were more than capable of frying them.
Groin Attack: Spike pushes Garble off the hoard by headbutting him in the groin area, though it doesn't seem to cause him the pain usually associated with this trope and merely make him lose balance.
Guys are Slobs: The all-male dragons, as compared to the mostly-female ponies.
High-Class Glass: While the other ponies watch the dragon migration with binoculars, Rarity uses opera glasses.
High Dive Hijinks: The cannonball-into-lava contest. Spike manages to finally impress the dragon boys with a fail that ends up as a major belly flop. Even the other dragons wince in sympathy.
Innocently Insensitive: This time it's Rarity, who despite knowing about Spike's crush on her, insists on talking to and about him in Baby Talk, seemingly unaware it's upsetting him this time rather than something he tolerates as a term of endearment.
It's All My Fault: Rainbow Dash and Twilight beat themselves up over Spike deciding to stay with the dragons forever, simply because they didn't stop him from leaving on his quest when they had the chance (Twilight more so since she outright encouraged him to go).
Jerkass: The whole gang of teen dragons are like human bullies. They smash phoniex eggs for fun.
Jerkass Has a Point: Fluttershy's violent stand up to Rainbow Dash, as impressive as it is, comes off as harsh considering, as the latter pointed out, she made Dash join her in watching the Butterfly Migration in a very similar circumstance beforehand (a group event Dash visibly didn't enjoy either). On the other hand, Rainbow Dash probably doesn't have a crippling phobia of butterflies.
Jerk Jock: The teenage dragons, especially Garble. They mock Spike's inability to roughhouse or compet in their sports.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Although she mocks Spike for being a lame dragon, Rainbow Dash clearly shows concern for him when he announces that he'll be joining the other dragons on the Great Dragon Migration and follows Twilight and Rarity.
Kryptonite Factor : This episode confirms that magic can hurt dragons despite their tough scales; the phoenixes' fire can blind and hurt them, while normal fire doesn't affect them at all. In several episodes it's shown that Spike can be affected by Twilight's spells (one occasion he's singed by the teleport spells), so it's logical a magical attack is effective against a dragon even if it's fire-related.
Lava is Boiling Kool-Aid: Done by Spike; when he belly-flops into the lava pool, he makes a solid impact on its surface before slowly sinking in. Played straight by the other dragons, who are presumably heavy enough to displace it like it was water.
When Spike's in trouble, Twilight, Rainbow, and Rarity are willing to fight the dragons much bigger than them. There's also the fact that they followed him in the first place, and did their best to keep him from getting hurt.
The phoenixes too. Birds made of fire that can scorch a dragon (to put that in context, lava is a swimming pool to dragons) and can summon a blinding light source out of nowhere. No wonder the teenage dragons needed someone to lure the parents away before raiding the nest.
Manly Tears: Played with. Spike is upset to tears about not knowing anything about his dragon heritage, and then wipes them away because he has the idea dragons are too tough to cry.
Monogender Monsters: Despite the number of dragons that show up, there's not one apparent female, with the possible exception of Crackle. This is Truth in Television: Reptiles don't have the sexual dimorphism of many other animals, so it would be difficult to tell a male dragon from a female at a glance. Also, even if dragons have some sexual dimorphism, it's common that migratory animals from the same species travel in gender-separate groups; very often, the males will arrive the first to the nesting/mating area to wait there for the females.
Mood Motif: The Strings of Suspense when Spike hovers on going through with the bigger dragons' insistence that he smash the phoenix egg he rescued.
Mythology Gag: My Little Pony And Friends had an episode, "Spike's Search", about their baby dragon named Spike trying to get in touch with his own kind. Even the plots are the same; Spike leaving the ponies to try living among his own kind, only to discover that dragons are immense jerks and that he really belongs among the ponies, which have become his "real" family.
Nurture Over Nature: While Spike never meets his biological parents, he does decide that "who [he is] is not the same as what [he is.]"
Negated Moment of Awesome: Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity are all ready to fight the teenage dragons, but Spike figures they should flee instead.
Nice Hat: The Mane Cast's camo outfits. Yes, including Rarity's.
Nigh Invulnerable: Spike is praised for suffering no damage after belly-flopping into lava from a cliff. The other dragons fly into a tree with enough force to punch through it and make it fall (falling face-first with the whole weight of the tree) twice, and aren't bruised. This might explain why Twilight decided to run from them despite being ready to fight Cerberus in the previous episode. This isn't new information, as it's been stated before that dragons have very tough scales.
The ponies know better than to try the Lava Cannonball.
Taking on a group of teenage dragons that outmass them and have the same numbers (four on four) is dangerous enough that running away is a reasonable option, even for Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash and especially since they were intruding in dragon territory, with the adults not far away. Besides, they'd already gotten Spike back, so there was nothing to gain by fighting even if they won.
Rite of Passage: Spike has to go through a series of tasks in order to prove he's a "real" dragon, including: a fire-belching contest, defeating another dragon in a round of "tail wrestling", playing "king of the hoard", and jumping into a lava pool.
Roll Out The Red Carpet: Literally — Rarity does this along with a bit of confetti flourish to announce her arrival at the trench to watch the dragon migration and show off her new "camo" outfit.
Second Place Is for Winners: The other dragons aren't won over by Spike having the largest lava cannonball splash, but instead by the fact he slams into the lava belly-first. The fail is so epic as to both impress them and earn their sympathy.
Super Window Jump: Downplayed by Fluttershy at the start of the episode, where she looks all ready to do this just to get away from Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash, only to stop at the last moment and gently open the window before completing her jump.
Teens Are Monsters: The older dragons take joy in pushing Spike around. They'd SMASH a bunch of phoenix eggs!
We Let You Win: When Spike is unable to prevail in tail-wrestling with the limp tail of Twilight/Rarity/Rainbow's dragon outfit, the girls fake a loss to let Spike receive the benefits of winning the round to his fellow dragons.
The letter from Princess Celestia that Spike belched up is never brought up again. Part of that may be due to the fact that Garble tossed it into the nearest lava pit, and it visibly burnt up.
Fluttershy never seems to come back from wherever she ran off to...
With Friends Like These...: The Cold Opening. Twilight and Rainbow (mostly the latter) try to literally drag Fluttershy into coming to the Dragon Migration. Fluttershy responds just as well as you'd expect, by knocking down Rainbow and stomping on her ribs before making an unintentionally comedic exit out a window.
Would Hurt a Child: The delinquent dragons have absolutely no qualms hurting poor Spike even though he's a baby dragon. They top themselves by trying to smash Phoenix eggs.
You Are a Credit to Your Race: Rarity, Rainbow, and Pinkie compliment Spike on being not like the other dragons. This sets him off because up until then he hadn't known he was different from other dragons, other than the events of "Secret of My Excess".
You Owe Me: Rainbow Dash tries to collect on Fluttershy for joining her for the Great Butterfly Migration, by making her come to the Great Dragon Migration. It doesn't work.