Recap: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S4 E24 "Equestria Games"
The gang's all here!
Let the games begin!
Written by Dave Polsky
The Mane Six, along with the rest of the athletes from Ponyville, head to the Crystal Empire for the start of the Equestria Games. Rainbow Dash gives everypony on the train a pep talk on the way, telling them all to do their best to be awesome.
Spike takes all of the athletes' luggage, when he's taken away by two crystal pony guards. Spike is treated like royalty in the Crystal Empire, as Twilight and Cadance explain that the crystal ponies recognize Spike for getting the Crystal Heart back into place. For this reason, Cadance asks Spike to light the ceremonial torch to start the Equestria Games, which Spike accepts. During the opening ceremony, Spike climbs up to the torch to light the fire, but is overcome by crippling stage fright, leaving him unable to light the torch. To save him from embarrassment, Twilight secretly casts a fire spell that lights the torch.
Later that day, Spike has come to the conclusion that he can light fires with his mind, until Twilight tells him that she lit the torch. This causes Spike's ego to deflate, and he wants to prove himself another way. During the games, Rainbow Dash and Spitfire run the anchor leg of the aerial relay for Ponyville and Cloudsdale, respectively, and Spitfire is first across the finish line. Spike, wanting to prove himself, goes onto the field to sing Ponyville's anthem, but realizes too late that he has to sing the Cloudsdale anthem instead because that team won the gold. Having never heard it before, he tries to improvise a song on the spot, to the audience's disdain. This causes Spike's ego to sink even lower, and he comes to feel like everypony is doubting him.
The final event of the Equestria Games is ice archery, and Ponyville has no one representing them in it, so Spike stays behind in a hotel room, packing things up and sulking about his performance. When Twilight learns that Spike is hiding away, she goes to the hotel room to persuade him to go to the arena. He agrees, but still feels like everypony will doubt him for ruining the games; Twilight tells him that his mistakes were ultimately harmless. During the ice archery competition, an athlete is so focused on his opponent's progress that he accidentally fires an ice arrow into the clouds, which causes one to turn into a giant spiked block of ice that falls towards the stands. The pegasi in the stands fly to hold it up, as do Celestia and Luna, but it still continues to fall. Shining Armor calls for unicorns to help, but because of an anti-magic field that unicorns passed through to prevent cheating, they can't help with their magic, and there isn't time to remove the spell. Spike, on instinct, leaps off of the backs of pegasi to unleash his fire breath on the ice block, melting it and preventing anypony from being hurt.
Even as the Mane Six and the Princesses praise Spike, he still feels down about himself, saying that anypony would have done the same thing if they had fire breath. Twilight finally realizes that the only person doubting Spike is Spike himself, and that he needs to be confident that he can succeed. To help him, Cadance offers to have Spike take her place to light the fireworks for the closing ceremony since he can't try the opening ceremony torch again. As the fireworks burst overhead, Spike reflects that when it comes time to show the world how great you are, you sometimes have to let go of the past to show how awesome you are in the present.
Tropes present in this episode include (YMMV tropes go here):
- Achilles in His Tent: After Spike butchers the Cloudsdale anthem, he spends the remainder of the Games sulking in his room pretending to pack for the train ride home. He completes this trope with his Big Damn Heroes moment of melting the cloud iceberg.
- Acting Unnatural: When Spike approaches while the Mane Six are worrying how he took the torch lighting, Rainbow Dash tells everyone to "act casual". She follows this up by slapping on her Cool Shades and striking a Badass Arm-Fold.
Rainbow Dash: 'Sup?
- As You Know: Twilight mentions how Spike helped save the Crystal Empire, something he should be fully aware of for obvious reasons. Probably justified because Spike isn't used to being treated like a national hero (he's usually a No Respect Guy), and Twilight and Cadance had to explain to him how much the Crystal Ponies adore him.
- Attention Whore: Played with; Ms. Harshwhinny assumes Spike is one for wanting to do "something really worthy of the Crystal Empire's admiration," when he's just attempting to make up for what he sees as a failure in the torch lighting ceremony.
Ms. Harshwhinny: Next thing you know you'll be asking to put on a rock concert! Ugh, celebrities.
- Badass Bystander: The pegasi from the stands who rushed in to help avert catastrophe via giant spiked ice-cloud, at least from the perspective of the ponies sitting next to them, unable to do anything. Imagine you're at a sporting event and something horrible happens on the field/track and the guy next to you immediately runs down to help while you feel comparatively useless, then multiply that feeling by the Olympics.
- Big Damn Heroes: Spike in the climax, quickly leaping to save the stadium from the block of ice without a second thought.
- Bling of War:
- The Crystal Empires' guardsponies can be seen wearing crystalline armor that's even shinier than that of the normal royal guards.
- Shining Armor is wearing his ornate captain's armor for the occasion as well.
- Brutal Honesty: Rainbow Dash encourages the Ponyville teams to win the gold...except for her team, who she admits probably won't do as well.
- Call Back:
- The Cameo:
- The Saddle Arabians (from Magic Duel) are part of the royal delegates, as well as Prince Blueblood (last seen in Sweet and Elite) and Fancy Pants seated in the box below.
- Practically every character who's ever appeared in the series can be seen in the audience, most prominently in this◊ shot, with a couple of other good ones here◊ and here◊.
- Canon Sue: As in Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3, this is also Discussed In-Universe:
Spike: You never let anypony down, so you don't have any idea what that's like.
Twilight: Are you kidding?! I've totally let ponies down. That's not the point!
- Character Development: Rainbow is very supportive of her teammates, even accepting the possibility they might not win, while still encouraging them to do their best.
- Chekhov's Gun: The anti-magic field later prevents magic-using ponies from helping out with magic during the ice cloud incident.
- Chirping Crickets: Following Spike's attempt at the anthem, the giant stadium is quiet, save for the cries of a lone baby, and Pinkie's echoing "Nailed it!".
- Continuity Nod:
- Shining Armor is wearing his captain's armor for the first time since A Canterlot Wedding.
- Derpy, despite not competing herself, is still part of Ponyville's delegation, as shown in Rainbow Falls, probably as an emergency replacement in case it's necessary.
- Pinkie Pie is the only person in the audience who enjoys Spike's rendition of the Cloudsdale anthem. She even shouts "Nailed it!" at the end. This is an inverse of the scene from Over a Barrel, where Spike was the only person in the audience to enjoy Pinkie's "You Gotta Care, You Gotta Share" song.
- Spike wishes that Twilight had some way to turn back time. Twilight does, in fact, know a spell that does something quite similar, and she looks like she's seriously considering using it.
- Spike's in-universe Memetic Mutation of the "easy peasy" couplet.
- Cool Chair: The four princesses each have their own elaborate thrones at the Games, emblazoned with stylized renditions of their cutie marks. This is similar to the VIP seating for the heads-of-state at the Olympics, including the leader of the host nation.
- Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: During Spike's attempt at the anthem.
- Cringe Comedy: The scene where Spike interrupts a medal ceremony to insist on singing the gold medal-winner's anthem. Only after Shining Armor announces this to the crowd does Spike realize that Cloudsdale (not Ponyville) won the gold for that particular event. Spike doesn't know any of the words to Cloudsdale's anthem. As he ad-libs, the camera cuts multiple times to the audience, who are just as embarrassed as Spike is. One unicorn even yanks his top hat down to cover his entire head.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Spike shows himself to be inept at his assigned tasks in the Games, for varied reasons, but when his abilities are really called for, he steps up and delivers without batting an eye.
- Don't Think. Feel: Spike becomes unable to light the Equestria Games torch because he's too focused on the pressure of the event. When he saves the crowd from the giant ice-cloud, he admits to the others he basically acted on instinct.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?:
- After several seasons of being the resident Butt Monkey, this is finally averted for Spike - it turns out that he's known throughout the Crystal Empire as "Great and Honorable Spike the Brave and Glorious", is seen as a Living Legend and receives preferential treatment, since he played the key role in retrieving the Crystal Heart.
- On the other hoof, the rest of the Elements of Harmony besides Twilight are supposed to be Equestria-wide heroes. Why do they have to sit way down in the stands below Mayor Mare, Fancypants, Fleur Dis Lee and Cherries Jubilee?
- Facehoof: Spike's cringe-worthy attempt at the Cloudsdale anthem naturally induces this to much of the audience (both in and out of universe).
- Face Plant: When Spike is brought before Cadance upon arriving in the Crystal Empire, he falls face-first on the ground when the guards transporting him come to a halt.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: In addition to the Saddle Arabians (who are more horse-like than pony), there are pony-like delegates from other cultures: a mare with a half-sun-like headdress akin to the Incan or Mayan culture, and a stallion with a very Mesopotamian headdress, beard, and hair/mane style. We find next episode these two are representatives from Maretonia.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus:
- In the background crowd scenes, many past characters from the show can be vaguely seen, including Gilda, Sapphire Shores, Aunt and Uncle Orange, Gustave Le Grande, Ms. Peachbottom, Cheese Sandwich, Octavia, the Mad Men ponies, Silver Shill, and many many others.
- In the stands near the royalty box is a pegasus mare with Bulk Biceps' body shape and the atypical beehive hairdo, butterfly glasses, and a string of pearls necklace. She has been dubbed "Mama Biceps".
- Friendly Rivalry: This is the purpose of the Equestria Games, which pit athletes from different parts of the kingdom against each other. Rainbow Dash and Spitfire lampshade this with an enthusiastic hoofbump at the finish line after the relay race.
- Grapes of Luxury: While Cadance and Twilight are explaining to Spike why he's being treated as a Living Legend, a crystal mare feeds him gemstones from a chalice while he lounges on a couch, and a crystal stallion fans him with a palm leaf.
- Hammerspace: After melting the ice cloud, Spike pulls an umbrella out of nowhere.
- Heroic BSOD: The revelation that Twilight needed to help Spike light the Equestria Games torch sends him into a depression for a majority of the episode.
- Heroic Self-Deprecation: Spike's reaction to praise from the Mane Six and Princess Cadance for saving everypony from the iceberg cloud.
Spike: I just saw what needed to be done and reacted. Just so happens I can breathe fire, and if any of you could do that, you'd have done the same.
- Holding Back the Phlebotinum: The unicorn magic disabling spell helps snap Spike out of his Heroic BSOD by making him the only one capable of saving the day.
- Honesty Is the Best Policy: When Spike thinks he can light fires with his mind and tries to do it again, Twilight takes him aside and explains that she lit the torch for him instead of letting him keep thinking that he has psychic powers or something. If she hadn't told him the truth right away, he would probably have gotten himself into big trouble somehow. It does make sense since there's already been at least two episodes this season about the importance of telling the truth, and one was right before this one.
- Hufflepuff House: The griffon delegation seen in Rainbow Falls is shown again, but they aren't mentioned in dialog and have no impact on the episode plot, despite placing third in the medal count and winning bronze in the aerial relay.
- Insane Troll Logic: When the torch seemingly lights up on its own, Spike concludes he must have lit it with his mind.
- Kill It with Fire: Inverted. Spike's fire presumably saved some lives near the end.
- Kneel Before Frodo: When praising Spike for saving everypony and the Games, Princess Cadance prostrates herself before him so that her entire body and head are level with the baby dragon's shoulders, and addresses him in the custom of her subjects as Great and Honorable Spike the Brave and Glorious.
- Living Legend: Spike is seen as this by the crystal ponies for the part he played in saving the Crystal Empire.
- Lonely at the Top: Twilight's assigned seat - for the opening ceremony anyway - is a throne at the highest level of the stadium with the other princesses. She briefly gazes down wistfully at her friends seated in a much lower level, who are having the time of their lives with everypony else.
- Never Accepted in His Hometown: Spike's a Butt Monkey in Ponyville, but in the Crystal Empire, he's the most admired and respected hero.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Power Nullifier to prevent cheating from the unicorns prevents them from doing anything to stop the giant ice cloud as it plummets toward the stadium.
- No Hero to His Valet: While everypony in the Crystal Empire sees Spike as a Living Legend, Ms. Harshwhinny doesn't think he's anyone special; see Attention Whore above.
- No Sympathy: Ms. Harshwhinny can't seem to spare the slightest bit of concern when the obviously stage frightened out of his mind Spike chokes and can't light the torch.
- Off Model: Twilight's wings use the standard pegasus flapping sprites, instead of the shrunken Cadance's wings sprites she's supposed to have.
- Oh, Crap:
- Spike, at first, more than excited to light the torch for the games. But once he gets inside the stadium, he quickly realizes how big the audience is, leading to this reaction.
- He gets it again when he's allowed to sing at the medal ceremony for the aerial relay, expecting to perform the Ponyville anthem. However, he finds out too late that only the anthem for the winning team - Cloudsdale - will be played, and of course he doesn't know that one.
- Overly Long Gag: Spike attempts to make up words for the Cloudsdale anthem since he's never heard it before. A number of them involve super-fast flying, trees, and wishing the song would just end already. Naturally, the song is comically long.
- Overly Long Name: Spike is known among the Crystal Ponies as "Great and Honorable Spike the Brave and Glorious".
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Spike dons one when Twilight coaxes him to come back to the stadium, apparently forgetting he's the only bipedal creature there. A small one at that.
- Parental Bonus: The gems that the crystal mare feeds Spike from a chalice fill the role of grapes or any other bite-sized treat or candy, but his preference for "the green ones" seems to refer to an urban legend about M&Ms.
- Performance Anxiety: When it's time to light the torch in front of the entire stadium, Spike's unable to trigger his fire breath.
- Playing with Fire: Spike, despite failing at lighting the torch, succeeds in melting a huge ice mass in a matter of seconds.
- Power Nullifier: The Equestria Games use disabling spells (which look like airport metal detectors) that unicorns must pass through to prevent cheating in the events.
- Psychic Powers: Discussed; Spike thinks he can set fires with these when the torch is seemingly lit on its own, until Twilight sets him straight.
- Rapid-Fire Nail Biting: One pony is seen doing this during Spike's attempts to light the torch.
- Rousing Speech: Rainbow Dash gives one to the other Ponyville competitors at the start. When it comes to her team, however, she acknowledges that being pitted against the Wonderbolts doesn't put the odds in their favor.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: When the cloud falls, Celestia and Luna are seen entering the fray like all the pegasi. This picture proves it. Twilight (attending the games in a royal capacity, complete with crown) is also about to lend assistance, but Spike makes his move before she can act.
- Second Place Is for Winners: Though Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps ultimately place silver in the relay race, they're still happy with the result. It helps that Ponyville still had the highest medal count at the end, and Rainbow Dash had accepted from the start that beating the Wonderbolts was a long shot.
- Species Surname: Ms. Harshwhinny constantly refers to Spike as "Mr. The Dragon".
- Stepping Stones in the Sky: Spike reaches the ice block by jumping off the backs of several flying pegasi.
- Stylistic Suck: Spike's rendition of the Cloudsdale anthem.
- This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: One of the ice arrows is misfired into a cloud, creating an iceberg that is about to fall on the stadium full of sports fans. The unicorns are powerless to stop it, and it's too heavy for Celestia, Luna, and the pegasi to safely guide to the center of the field. Their only hope is a fire-breathing dragon, and Spike is the only one at the Games.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Spike, a character who's often the butt of many jokes, is celebrated as a hero by the denizens of the Crystal Empire, and gets to save the day there a second time after going through two humiliating experiences.
- Title Drop: Every time somepony mentions the name of the sporting event taking place in the episode.
- Trick Arrow: The final event in the games is an archery contest. The twist is that the arrowheads freeze what they hit, and the goal is to cover the entire target in ice before the other ponies. Chaos ensues when one participant trips up and fires one into a cloud, turning the entire thing into an ice ball which nearly crushes the audience.
- Unexpected Character: Cherry Jubilee of all ponies sits among the princesses and delegates.
- Vertigo Effect: When Spike first sees how big the crowd is at the stadium, the camera pushes in on him panicking.
- The Voiceless:
- Though all four princesses are in attendance in this episode, Celestia and Luna don't speak, save for gasping when seeing the icy cloud, and saying, "You guess?!?!" with the Mane 6 and Cadance.
- (Although if one listens carefully, it sounds like Nicole Oliver and Tabitha St. Germain, Celestia's and Luna's voice actors respectively, never recorded those two words for them during production.)
- After the Ponyville relay team fly through the Cutie Mark Crusaders' hoop in the opening ceremonies shouting their Catch Phrases, Derpy follows them silently.
- The Cloudsdale team appear prominently, but none of them have lines this time around.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: The episode's aesop, and Spike's character arc for this episode, revolve around him learning this.