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Recap / My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S6 E5 "Gauntlet of Fire"

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One Dragon to Rule Them All!

"I'm not big and strong. I know. But you know what? I won anyway. So maybe it takes more than just being big and strong to be a good Dragon Lord."
Princess Ember

Written by Joanna Lewis & Kristine Songco

While mining for gemstones with Rarity, Spike suddenly breaks out in a glowing scale rash. Rarity takes him to the princesses at Twilight's castle, where Celestia and Luna remark they've seen this kind of phenomenon before: it is the call of the Dragon Lord, a summons for dragons to go to the Dragon Lands. Spike feels nervous about going — recalling his encounter with the dragon Garble and his gang — so Rarity and Twilight agree to go with him in disguise.

Once the three reach the Dragon Lands, the gargantuan Dragon Lord Torch announces it is time for him to step down from his throne and choose a new successor per dragon customs. To do this, the dragons must compete in the Gauntlet of Fire, a perilous race through the Flamecano to retrieve the Bloodstone Scepter that gives the Dragon Lord authority. Spike initially wants nothing to do with the competition, and Torch's daughter, Princess Ember, points out how small and weak he is, so he gets Torch's permission to leave. However, when he overhears Garble's plans to burn Equestria to the ground once he wins, Spike decides he has no choice but to participate.

The dragons all fly over the Flamecano except for Spike, who doesn't have wings and has to swim across instead, with Rarity and Twilight following in secret. When an armored dragon is knocked into the water, Spike saves the dragon from drowning and unmasks her to reveal Princess Ember, who is competing against her father's wishes to prove herself worthy of being his successor. Ember finds out about Spike's pony friends and tells him she doesn't "do" friendship; as far as dragonkind goes, it's everyone for themselves. After she helps Spike cover for Twilight and Rarity from Garble while Spike helps cover for her, the two agree to work together to get deeper into the volcano, but Ember still insists they're not friends.

Over a set of challenges including massive boulders raining from the cliffs, flames shooting from caverns and a maze of crystals, Spike and Ember continue to progress further, Garble following close behind. At a room full of lava pits, Spike saves Rarity from otherwise being burned by a lava jet, with Ember incredulous that Spike risked himself for someone else, especially a pony. She still insists on looking out for herself, flying away in a maze of caverns. Spike insists to Rarity and Twilight that he and Ember are friends, and the three progress through the caverns, finally coming across where the Bloodstone Scepter had fallen. Garble arrives shortly behind them, exposing Rarity and Twilight by removing their disguises.

Just when it looks like Garble is going to attack all of them, Ember flies in and holds Garble off, having a change of heart over her friendship with Spike. Spike grabs the Bloodstone Scepter, becoming the new Dragon Lord. Spike calls off Garble and tells the other dragons to leave the Flamecano, then gives the scepter to Ember; Spike's only concern was saving his friends, and he trusts Ember will be able to uphold peace and friendship between dragons and ponies. She takes the scepter back to her father, who announces her as the new Dragon Lord. Spike, Rarity and Twilight leave, happy that Spike has made a powerful new ally and a good friend.

Gauntlet of Tropes:

  • Abdicate the Throne: Twice:
    • Torch starts the contest for the new Dragon Lord because their customs dictate he must abdicate the throne after ruling for so long.
    • Spike passes the Bloodstone Scepter to Ember, as she is more capable of being Dragon Lord than he is and he has no desire to stay in the dragon lands. Spike only participated in the first place because he wanted to make sure Torch's successor wouldn't wage war on pony kind for petty reasons, which he is sure Ember won't do, and he was only able to obtain the scepter in the first place because she held off Garble for him.
  • Action Girl: Ember proves to be pretty tough in her fight with Garble.
  • An Aesop: You don't have to be big and strong to be a good leader; just be who you are.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: When Spike hugs Ember towards the end of the episode, Ember gives Spike a gentle pat on the head as he does so while blushing.
  • Armored Dragons:
    • Dragon Lord Torch wears a black plastron by default.
    • Most of the dragons (but not Garble) competing in the Gauntlet don armors, showing how dangerous the ordeal is.
    • This includes Princess Ember, though in her case it's mostly to hide her identity from her father. The armor is shown to be a bad idea when she falls into the sea and sinks like a stone.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: When Spike retrieves the Bloodstone Scepter, it emits a mighty blast and he gains a big booming voice.
  • Badass in Distress: Ember almost drowns because of her heavy armor.
  • Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: When Torch admits that Ember will make a good Dragon Lord, Ember shouts to the other dragons "AGREE WITH HIM!", prompting several shocked and confused reactions before she clarifies "Just kidding! That's not gonna be my thing."
  • Bat Scare: The episode starts with Rarity fetching gems in a cavern with bats hanging from the ceiling. A previous time, she accidentally woke them up and ended with a mane full of bats, and she'd like to avoid a repeat. Unfortunately, Spike's scales start to glow and the bats swarm again.
  • Because I Said So: Torch refuses to let Ember compete in the Gauntlet because he thinks she is too small to win. When Ember argues she is smarter than most of the other dragons Torch says that won't help her win, and finishes by telling her "Besides, I said no!"
  • Big Damn Heroes: Ember saves Spike from Garble when Garble is about to drop him off the side of a cave. She also flies in at the last minute just as Twilight and Rarity are cornered off a cliff.
  • The Big Race: The titular contest is a race through a mountain to obtain the Bloodstone Scepter and be crowned the new Dragon Lord. Spike wins the race, but passes the scepter and title to Ember.
  • Blush Sticker: Ember blushes through her scales when Spike hugs her towards the end.
  • Boring, but Practical: Twilight opts not to use the Totem Pole Trench disguise they used last time and instead has Rarity make simpler but more effective disguises such as a rock, much to her dismay.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Among the hopeful potential dragon lords, one says she'd "make burps an official greeting"; another wants to steal all of Equestria's pillows so that dragons won't have to sleep on rocks, and Garble's plan is to loot Equestria and then raze it to the ground.
  • Breath Weapon:
    • A given in an episode focusing on dragons, although out of the many present, only Torch is seen using his, to signal the start of the Gauntlet. Fitting for his size and name, it's quite the impressive firestorm.
    • The giant eel monsters guarding the strait, on the other hand, have watery breath weapons that delay several of the dragons, and even knocks out a few from the sky (including Ember).
  • The Bus Came Back: Garble reappears after being absent for three seasons since Season 2.
  • But Now I Must Go: Spike, Rarity, and Twilight leave the Dragonlands at the end, happy to have found a friend in Dragon Lord Ember.
  • Call-Back: Spike's adventure in "Dragon Quest" is brought up in the beginning and is the reason why he's reluctant to answer the call of the Dragon Lord. Rarity also wants to use the dragon costume from said episode again, but is persuaded by Twilight to use something more discreet.
  • The Cameo: Crackle the dragon can be seen during one pan while the dragons are gathering for Dragon Lord Torch, and later stuck against one of the smashing rock traps.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: After ditching him earlier, Princess Ember returns to help Spike in the end, after realizing they are friends and their friendship really is important.
  • Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: Rarity's speed at creating new disguises for her and Twilight seems taken for granted by Spike and Ember.
  • Character Witness: Spike helping Garble is a subversion, but it's played straight when Spike saves Ember from drowning.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Exploited by Garble, who begs Spike for help in removing a boulder that has him pinned, knowing Spike is too noble to refuse.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Spike, Ember, Rarity and Twilight enter a cavern full of lava fountains during the Gauntlet. Justified for the dragons, who have been established to be very fire-resistant in previous episodes, but the ponies don't seem bothered by the heat either.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: In his brief stint as Dragon Lord, Spike sentences Garble to go back home, and to give a hug to every dragon he meets without explaining why.
  • Covered in Gunge: Rarity ends up smeared with bat guano after escaping the bat swarm.
  • Damsel in Distress: Twilight Sparkle and Rarity are cornered by Garble after their disguises are exposed. Thankfully, Ember returns in time to save them.
  • Death Course: The title Gauntlet, an extremely dangerous course inside an unstable "Flamecano" which the would-be dragon lords must run to obtain the Bloodstone Scepter.
  • Denser and Wackier: Garble. In "Dragon Quest" he was more a stock thug and bully, and at times could be rather unsettling in this representation. Here he is still a wrathful jerk, even more so in fact, but acts more like a blithering Sitcom Arch-Nemesis for Spike.
  • Determinator: Garble might be a jerk, but he sure is persistent, coming in third behind Spike and Ember and well ahead of the rest of the pack.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Garble wants to sack all of Equestria just because of three ponies and a pony-loving baby dragon.
  • Distress Ball: Twilight Sparkle and Rarity grab it when they forget about their powers after their disguises are exposed and Garble closes in on them. They're in trouble until Princess Ember saves them. In this case, Twilight and Rarity could've run (or Twilight could've flown them away) but would not abandon Spike. Fortunately, the Magic of Friendship works on dragons.
  • Diving Save: When Spike and Ember are making their way through the tunnel together, dodging giant crystal spires, Spike saves Ember from one of them that almost comes down right on top of her, diving at her and tackling her out of the way. The small smile she gives after this shows she is thankful for it.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Spike defending Ember to Rarity and Twilight sounds like they're discussing her as his girlfriend, with such choice phrases as "I can't believe she ditched me..." and "Oh, you're better off."
    • Garble's hatred of Spike for being a "pony-loving dragon" makes perfect sense in the context of Fantastic Racism. A common racist sentiment is "The only thing worse than a _____ is a _____-lover".
  • Dungeon Bypass: Rarity and Twilight are somehow able to keep ahead of Spike and Ember, evidently unhindered by the dangers of the Gauntlet, something Ember lampshades. Teleportation perhaps?
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: The episode closes on Spike, Twilight and Rarity laughing when Rarity suggests selling a line of "camo mod" clothing.
  • Eye Cam: When Ember wakes up after Spike saves her from drowning, the screen is framed by her eyelid.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Downplayed compared to previous encounters between ponies and dragons. Rarity and Twilight Sparkle are a lot more receptive toward dragons (Twilight is very excited to learn about them), Princess Ember is fine with Ponies too, and if her becoming Dragon Lord is any indication, relations between dragons and ponies have improved, albeit just a little, but will grow more in the future. Garble, on the other hand, still hates ponies, perhaps even more so than before, and hates Spike just as much for associating with them. It's not just ponies though, Princess Ember and Spike working together also strikes a chord with him too.
    • In a more general sense, Celestia and Luna explain that the way most dragons view ponies makes it dangerous for any to venture in the Dragonlands (and is why ponies have never been able to learn very much about dragons).
  • Finders Rulers: The dragon who retrieves the Bloodstone Scepter from the Flamecano becomes Dragon Lord.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Spike and Princess Ember, even with Spike being naturally friendly.
  • Forgot About His Powers: Twilight and Rarity don't use their magic to try to defend themselves against Garble when they are discovered.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Ember's color change from blue to green while in disguise gets an explanation when you notice the trail of green she leaves behind in the water and on the beach: she painted her scales.
  • Fridge Logic: Ember in-universe when questioning Rarity and Twilight's Dungeon Bypass.
  • Friendless Background: Dragons in general.
    Spike: Don't you have anyone who looks out for you?
    Ember: Not really. Unless I count you, which I don't!
  • Friendship Denial: After Spike and Ember make it through the tunnel together, Ember calls off their partnership, saying it is every dragon for themselves and reaffirming that she and Spike aren't friends, because "dragon don't do friendship". She subverts once she comes back and saves Spike from Garble, saying that the two of them are friends and she shouldn't have left him.
  • Full-Body Disguise:
    • Twilight and Rarity dress up as a rock, a bunch of seaweed, a tree, and a pair of stalagmites to blend into the surroundings.
    • Princess Ember paints herself green and dons a full-body armor to be able to compete.
  • Gasshole: One dragon talks about wanting to make burping an official greeting for dragons after becoming the Dragon Lord. Weirdly, it's a female dragon doing this, despite this being more of a "masculine" attitude.
  • Gigantic Adults, Tiny Babies: Dragon Lord Torch is almost as tall as a mountain, whereas his daughter Ember is barely bigger than Spike.
  • Got Volunteered: A variation, since Spike is already singled out by Torch when he tries to walk out of the meeting. However, the other dragons surrounding him are very prompt in moving out of the way and forming two lines, leaving a completely free path for the giant Dragon Lord to focus on Spike (and his "rock").
  • Handshake Refusal: When Spike and Ember agree to help each other, Spike says they have a deal and thrusts his claw for her to shake. Ember is visibly uncomfortable with the gesture, which is likely unknown among dragons, so she just grabs a finger between her index and thumb and wiggles it.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: When Torch wants you to feel a particular emotion, he will let you know it, and you will spontaneously display that emotion. Although this is justified by the young dragons being rather slow on the uptake, and bad at catching more subtle hints.
  • Hey, You!: After Ember thinks about Spike's offer to work together, she calls out to him saying "Hey, you, little fella!" She learns his name by the time they make it up the mountain together though.
  • Hidden Depths: Ember acts tough like most dragons but is far more open and friendly, a concept that even she considers rare among dragons. It's because of this that Spike easily warms up to her and is unconvinced when she says it's every dragon for themselves.
  • Humiliation Conga: Garble gets knocked around during every step of the contest, and then has to hug every dragon he meets on the way home without even telling them why.
  • Hyperspace Wardrobe: Rarity has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of situationally appropriate disguises — rock, seaweed, tree, stalagmite — which she keeps... somewhere that's never explained.
  • Hypocrite: Whether or not the reasons were to protect his daughter, Dragon Lord Torch forbids Princess Ember from taking part in the Gauntlet of Fire for being too small and weak while allowing Spike (who is more-so) to participate.
  • I Can't Believe I'm Saying This: Rarity can't believe she's saying it, but she actually wishes that the she-dragon who wants to make burps an official greeting would win. It's gross, but it's better than the dreadful plans other dragons have for Equestria.
  • Ill-Timed Sneeze: Subverted. Rarity getting her nose tickled by the tip of Twilight's quill causes a sneeze that almost betrays them to the dragons. Luckily, Spike takes the blame.
  • Impact Silhouette: Garble gets slammed into the wall by a crystal spike in the flamecano and leaves a perfect outline in the rock, wings included. Being a dragon, he's dazed but not hurt.
  • Ineffectual Loner: The moral of the episode. Garble is certainly a dangerous competitor in his own right, but Ember and Spike working together are much more effective than one dragon working alone, and so beat him in the Gauntlet.
  • It's All About Me: Dragon culture for some reason was built on this attitude. Dragons don't do Friendship and it is every Dragon for themselves, as lampshaded by Ember when she ditches Spike, until her friendliness kicks in.
  • Large and in Charge: Dragon Lord Torch is the leader of and by far the biggest dragon in the Dragon Lands. To really put things in perspective, Torch is close in size to the humongous Ursa Major. Later inverted with Spike and Ember however, as they're perhaps the smallest dragons in attendance.
  • Large Ham: Lord Torch shouts at the top of his lungs at the end of almost every sentence. And if his subjects aren't emoting the way he wants, he is not shy about letting them know.
    Lord Torch: BE SAD!
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • On the positive side, Spike and Ember helping each other paid off for them both. She becomes the new Dragon Lord, and he gains an ally and friend.
    • On the negative side, Garble finally gets punished for his behavior, and in a hilariously fitting manner.
  • Laughing at Your Own Jokes: Garble amuses himself with a joke about Spike's size.
    Garble: But I've wasted enough time making small talk. Get it? Heh-heh, because you're too small to win this. Heh, I'm funny.
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: Spike looks at sand on the beach and rocks to combine into Sandy Rockbeach, a cover name for Princess Ember.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: While trying to help Ember fight Garble, Spike gets thrown past the edge of the stone bridge and hangs for dear life above the chasm. Ember later saves him.
  • Loud Gulp:
    • Spike makes an audible gulp when Rarity mentions Garble.
    • He has one again when Garble warns him about even thinking about Princess Ember, or Torch will eat him.
  • Loophole Abuse: When Spike hands the Bloodstone Scepter — and with it the title of Dragon Lord — to Ember, he claims that the Dragon Lord is whoever brings the scepter back to her father, rather than simply whoever got it first, to justify doing this. While Torch never said exactly thatnote , none of the witnessing dragons argue.
  • MacGuffin: The Bloodstone Scepter, which allows dragons to take authority but presumably has no powers of its own, except for the magical beacon it projects to signal the Gauntlet of Fire has a winner.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Ember scoffs at the concept of a dragon having friends, Spike retorts: "Well, this dragon does!" Later, once Garble gets up in arms over her and Spike helping each other, she declares: "These dragons do!"
  • Meaningful Name: Princess Ember, as the daughter of Dragon Lord Torch.
  • Might Makes Right: Dragon Lord Torch believes size and strength are necessary for a ruler, until Ember (with some help from Spike) proves otherwise.
  • Missing Mom: Although there are female dragons in the crowd who responded to the call of the Dragon Lord, Ember's mother is nowhere to be seen, nor mentioned as an opposing voice to Torch's "my little girl is not strong enough to rule" edict.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The slingtails are overall dinosaur-like in appearance, but are mixing traits of several species: the head is framed by a crest reminiscent of Triceratops, the body is roughly shaped like that of an Ankylosaurus, and the tail has spikes like a Stegosaurus's thagomizer. A close look also show they have furry backs.
  • Mr. Exposition: The role of Princesses Luna and Celestia in this episode. Spike is lucky they are present and aware of the meaning of a dragon's scales glowing, else he wouldn't have a clue about what's happening to him, knowledge of dragon customs being rather sparse in pony lands.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much:
    • The first lesson from Spike to Ember about The Power of Friendship.
      Ember: Dragons don't do friends.
      Spike: Well, this dragon does.
    • Lord Torch himself, who being the leader of a culture that prides itself on "Every Dragon for themselves", clearly cares about his daughter a lot.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • To the G3 DTV Movie, Princess Promenade, in which Wysteria became princess just by pulling up an object, in that case a flower, which awoke that incarnation of Spike to help lead her to princess-hood. In this version, Spike is the one who needs to find an object, the Bloodstone Scepter, to become king of the dragons. And ironically enough he passes on the role to Ember, making her the ruler of the dragons.
    • "Ember" was also the name of a baby pony in the G1 line, and while she was nowhere near as badass as dragon Ember, the fact that she was small was a plot point in "Rescue at Midnight Castle". She also befriended Spike, who could be considered her enemy at the time (he was a reluctant minion for Tirek, who had captured her).
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Garble stating his desire to loot and destroy Equestria if he wins is what leads Spike to decide to participate in the Gauntlet when he'd previous decided to just skip it and go home. As it turns out, Spike teaming up with Ember is what stops Garble from winning the contest. If Garble had kept his mouth shut, he would have been Dragon Lord.
  • No Indoor Voice: Let's just say that Torch really likes shouting. He puts the Royal Canterlot Voice to shame. Justified: he's so much larger than all the other dragons, he has to shout to be heard by all of them, even in their natural amphitheater gathering spot.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: More than ever, Spike is shown to fall under this compared to other dragons, even though they're already very diverse in appearances, by being still the only dragon we've seen that lacks wings.
  • The Nose Knows: Garble has a keen sense of smell and can recognize ponies by scent. He almost discovers Rarity and Twilight's presence, but Ember covers for them.
  • Not Hyperbole: When Torch laughs that he could crush Spike with his pinky claw, Spike laughs nervously along, only for Torch to state, "That wasn't a joke; it was a fact."
  • Nurture over Nature: The first dragon Garble hugs on his way home is surprised to find he likes being hugged. Combined with Spike readily accepting friendship as a hatchling raised among ponies and Ember quickly learning to accept Spike's friendship, this implies that "dragons don't do friendship" is more a matter of dragon culture than biology.
  • Offered the Crown: Ember is given the Bloodstone Scepter by Spike because she would do a better job with it and he doesn't want it anyway.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Lampshaded by Ember when Rarity and Twilight pop up the third time.
  • Oh, Crap!: Garble gets a big fear face when Spike gets the Scepter.
  • Passing the Torch: A figurative and literal example since Spike wins the title of Dragon Lord, but decides to give it to Ember and passes the torch/scepter to her.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise:
    • It's pretty obvious that it's Ember beneath the armor and green paint if you look closely.
    • The large eye-holes on the ponies' rock disguise are very conspicuous.
  • Portmanteau: The Flamecano.
  • Power Glows:
    • Rarity lampshades the glow of unicorn magic when scavenging gems in a bats-filled cave.
    • The call of the Dragon Lord makes dragons glow.
    • Whenever any dragon touches or is given the scepter, the scepter's glow engulfs them.
  • Present Company Excluded: When Rarity said that dragons are ghastly creatures, she says to Spike, "Of course, not you, Spikey-Wikey," while rubbing under his chin.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Minus the rape, obviously, this is Garble's plan for Equestria should he become Dragon Lord.
    Garble: We'll take whatever we want from Equestria and burn the rest!
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Lord Torch is a large, boisterous, and intimidating dragon, but he acknowledges that he must give up his throne and is a fair king, letting Spike leave and go back home. Further, he did not use his influence over the dragons to harm Equestria. He also cares about his daughter Ember and doesn't get upset and accepts it without argument when she winds up as the new Dragon Lord in the end.
    • Spike is one himself. Instead of making Garble do his dirty work, after what he had done in "Dragon Quest", he instead gives him a lesser fate of having him hug every dragon he meets without saying why.
    • This is also what Ember is aiming to be as the new Dragon Lord. Twilight is excited about the possibility of diplomatic relations with her.
  • Rebellious Princess: Ember is a dragon version who earned her right to rule after going through an insanely dangerous Death Course despite her father vetoing her participation.
  • Refusal of the Call: Spike initially attempts to not participate in the games and even gets permission to go ahead and head back. However, he becomes Resigned to the Call when he realizes that Ponyville and Equestria could be potentially in danger if an amoral dragon like Garble get their hands on the scepter if he doesn't try to win.
  • Rent-a-Zilla: Torch, the largest dragon yet. For comparison, individual phalanges of his claws are bigger than most ponies. Some size estimations even put him above the humongous Ursa Major.
  • Revenge: Garble wanting to sack Equestria upon becoming Dragon Lord is no doubt due to his previous encounter with Spike, Twilight, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash.
  • Right Makes Might: When Ember brings back the Bloodstone Scepter, her father concedes that she has the strength to rule, even though she isn't big and powerful.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Celestia and Luna are further confirmed to not just be this but to be usually quite effective at it, despite some fan interpretations of Celestia in particular as shoving all the problems onto Twilight and failing whenever she tries to do something herself. The topic comes up regarding how being this also means they spend a lot of time dealing with one crisis or another offscreen and cherish time to just relax and socialize.
  • Running Gag: There's a crudely-drawn picture of Spike on the cover of Twilight's notebook where she records her observations on dragons, similar to the guidebook on Griffonstone that she wrote.
  • Samus Is a Girl: A brief example. When Spike sees a competitor fall into the water, he immediately says, "He'll drown!" and dives in to save "him". When the mask is taken off, he (and Rarity and Twilight) is shocked that Princess Ember is competing for the title of Dragon Lord.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: Spike makes several sarcastic remarks towards Garble, all of which Garble takes at face value.
    Spike: It's nice to see you too, Garble.
    Garble: I didn't say it was nice to see you. It's not! I don't like you! Was I not clear about that?
  • Self-Deprecation: When Ember agrees to team up with Spike, she makes it clear that they won't "pick flowers or exchange necklaces or whatever pony friends do" as a friendly jab at the shows' own tendency to taste like diabetes as well as a shot to critics who judge the show based on Hasbro's toys and commercials.
  • Sequel Episode: To "Dragon Quest". Spike once again goes to another dragon gathering and encounters Garble. Twilight and Rarity follow him in disguise as well, though not in secret this time.
  • Series Continuity Error: Rarity and Spike remember Garble's name, even though it was never mentioned in "Dragon Quest".
  • She Is the King: The leader of the dragons has the title of "Dragon Lord", regardless of gender, as Ember is not pronounced "Dragon Lady".
  • Ship Tease:
    • A small bit between Spike and Ember. He notices her pretty quickly even though he is far away and she is next to her mountain of a father, Spike is pretty adamant that Ember is a good person even after she ditches him in the caves, and at the end when Spike and Ember hug she blushes.
    • Rarity refers to Spike as "Spikey-wikey" once again. She also takes him immediately to Twilight once they escape the bats, despite being absolutely covered in, for want of a better word, bat poop. Keep in mind that this is Rarity we're talking about. A pony known for stressing cleanliness and neatness to the point of ridiculousness. It shows how much she cares for Spike that she'd let herself be soiled just to help him.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The title is reminiscent of the Goblet of Fire.
    • Princess Ember is quite a bit like Eowyn, the daughter of a ruler who's forbidden to pursue her Action Girl dreams, so she disguises herself in armor to be part of it.
    • Spike surrendering the scepter almost as soon as he gets it gives him a Vardamir-esque vibe.
    • At one point, Garble basically tells Spike that the latter stinks of horse.
    • Ember's disguising herself to participate in a contest to get what she wants after a parent has forbidden it is also an homage to Wonder Woman, or numerous other Women-disguised-to-fight stories throughout the ages.
    • The way bats make a transition at the beginning of the episode bears striking resemblance to getting a Game Over in Batman: Arkham Asylum.
    • Princess Ember's initial reaction to being hugged by Spike is reminiscent of Twelve being hugged by Clara for the first time.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Garble in his first appearance was just a one-dimensional dragon bully in a Terrible Trio; here, while he's in a competition against countless other dragons, he's by himself and it is clear he has developed a personal animosity against Spike. In keeping with the other half of the trope, he is also more of a comedic Butt-Monkey in personality than before.
  • Skewed Priorities: Twilight's enthusiasm about researching draconic culture makes her briefly forget about helping Spike.
  • So Proud of You: Torch, after getting over the fact that his daughter Ember participated in the Gauntlet against his wishes, acknowledges that she has the strength and wisdom to be a good leader.
  • Spikes of Doom: The dangers of the Gauntlet include a room with a floor lined by sharp stalagmites.
  • Squeaky Eyes: On Garble's first scene, his eyes make a tingling sound every time he double-blinks while saying the word "ponies".
  • Staff of Authority: The Bloodstone Scepter, though in Torch's claws it's more like a toothpick. It sizes up pretty well for the other dragons, though.
  • Status Quo Is God: If Spike becomes the Dragon Lord, he wouldn't be able to return to Equestria with Twilight and Rarity, so it's only natural that he passes the opportunity to Ember.
  • Stealth Pun: Princess Ember becomes the new Dragon Lord after her father, Lord Torch. The torch has been passed from father to daughter.
  • Stock Scream: Yet another Wilhelm Scream is heard when the dragons are being pelted with boulders by the slingtails.
  • Super-Toughness: A known fact already, but this episode is a good reminder that dragons are very sturdy. The trials of the Gauntlet are harrowing for them, but they would be utterly deadly for lesser creatures, who'd easily end up drowned, crushed into paste or burned to a crisp. This is especially proven when Garble survives being hit by an obstacle spike which would have skewered a pony.
  • Take That, Audience!: Celestia and Luna casually talking about the frequent crises they handle off-screen on their own may be a friendly jab at fans who accuse the two of being useless, weak, or complacent in letting the Mane Six do all the work.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Luna and Celestia are talking about how nice it is not to deal with an imminent crisis when Spike and Rarity show up.
    • Spike, when he finds the cavern where the scepter lies and comments that he can't believe he was the first to find it. Cue Garble showing up behind him.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: While they do cheer him on, Rarity and Twilight do not help Spike beyond giving him advice or acting as a sounding board. Justified, as they would be in deep trouble if they were ever discovered by the dragons, as well as making things extra tough for Spike. Princess Ember is cool with them being around, but the other Dragons (especially Garble) aren't so merciful.
  • Through a Face Full of Fur: Or Through a Face Full of Scales, anyway. Ember sports a pair of Blush Stickers when Spike hugs her towards the end of the episode, even though one would expect that her reptilian scales would cover any rush of blood to the underlying skin.
  • Title Drop: Dragon Lord Torch mentions the episode's title as the name of the competition for the Bloodstone Scepter.
  • Toilet Humor: A mild example: an unnamed female dragon says "When I become Dragon Lord, I will make burps an official greeting!"
  • Tsundere: Ember is a classic Harsh type, putting on a strong front but still being nice and friendly in her own way. When she sadly reflects that Spike would count as her only friend, she quickly says he doesn't count, which is another classic trait of the Harsh type.
  • Ungrateful Bastard:
    • Somewhat with Ember after Spike rescues her from drowning thanks to her armor; Rarity even calls her out on it. Subverted later as she becomes friends with Spike and returns the gesture.
    • After Spike helps him out from being stuck by a boulder, Garble responds to his kindness with his trademark jerkass-ery.
  • "Well Done, Daughter!" Gal: Ember's primary concern is to prove herself to everyone — especially her father — that just because she is smaller and weaker than most dragons, that doesn't make her a bad leader.
  • What Is This Feeling?: Dragons don't do teamwork or friendship, but when Ember teams up with Spike to win the contest, she's surprised, and a little weirded out, to find that she likes having friends.
    Ember: Please don't make me talk about my feelings.
  • Worldbuilding: We get to see more of the dragons' homeland, and learn more about their society. This episode also possibly opens the door for future diplomatic relations between dragons and ponies.
  • The World Is Always Doomed: The frequent crises are lampshaded by Luna and Celestia while having a tea party with Twilight.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Garble certainly would, if his scuffle with Ember is any indication.
  • The Wrongful Heir to the Throne: All of Torch's potential successors are varying levels of terrible, ranging from "ditz" to "psychopath", the former being the most preferable option. Spike decides to compete because he can't risk any of them gaining control of the dragons. Fortunately for him, Ember proves to be a more reasonable sort and he's comfortable with leaving her in charge.
  • You Know I'm Black, Right?: Rarity talks about having to deal with "awful dragons" when Spike is right there in front of her. She quickly clarifies that she meant dragons like Garble.