Spike is helping Rarity locate phoenix nests, as she needs some feathers for her next dress, but Spike tries to keep a "stone scale" on his face hidden from her. They run into Peewee, the phoenix chick Spike rescued and is now grown up, but the bird touches the stone scale, sending Spike into pain. Rarity suggests that the blemish will go away after a good night's sleep. However, when Twilight wakes him up after he's slept in late, Spike finds his entire body now covered by stone scales and is extremely itchy. Worse, he starts to uncontrollably breathe fire. Twilight suggests Spike spend the day outside instead.
Spike is moping in disguise by the Friendship School when Rarity comes back. He refuses to take off his disguise and quickly takes Pinkie Pie's place as a tour guide for the school to stay away from Rarity, fearing she'll reject him if she sees him like this. During the tour, Spike finds it difficult to control his voice, and has another incident with his fire breath, burning away his disguise. He rushes off to hide, but Smolder, having spotted Spike's problems, is able to find him hiding in a broom closet. She explains to Spike that he's going through the molt, a point all dragons experience, and warns him about another symptom, his body giving off an odor that could draw predators. Smolder tells him it is a sign of growing up after which the dragon's family forces them to live on their own. Spike starts to panic that Twilight will make him leave should he finish his molt.
Spike runs to Zecora to see if she has a cure. As she examines him, Rarity arrives, having become temporarily deaf due to working with the phoenix feathers. Spike hides, still not wanting Rarity to see him like this, and he quickly leaves the hut when Zecora creates a distraction for him. Rarity leaves after getting some medicine for her ears, and Zecora goes to look for Spike, only to discover him taking shelter from a giant roc that's been drawn to his odor. The roc grabs Zecora before Spike can stop her, and Spike gives chase and ends up running into Rarity. Rarity, still deaf, cannot understand Spike's warning until its too late, as the roc grabs her and Spike too. Spike tries to free them, but his random fire breath instead sends him flying, landing near Twilight who had come out to see Zecora about some anti-itching creme for Spike. Spike, his body intensely glowing and itching, quickly explains the situation and Twilight sets off to try to stop the roc with magic. Spike is able to follow when his body suddenly stops glowing. He is relieved for a moment before a stone casing encompasses him. After a moment, the casing falls off, and Spike finds he is now free of the stone scales, and has gotten a pair of wings as a result of the molt. After a bit of elation, he realizes his friends are in trouble, and, now able to fly, joins Twilight to help distract the roc to force it to drop Rarity and Zecora. The two save them from falling to the ground.
Twilight, Rarity, and Zecora admire Spike's wings, but Spike realizes that with the molt done, he should leave, but Twilight refuses to let him go, explaining that that dragon tradition doesn't apply in Equestria, and he is still a part of her family. On their return to Ponyville, Rarity convinces Spike, now able to hover higher, to help serve as a dress form for her phoenix outfits, a task he happily takes on.
- Acting Unnatural: In the Cold Open, Spike hides his first stone scale by putting his claw over his cheek. Rarity quickly realizes something is off.
- An Aesop:
- Going through changes may be adverse to endure, but in the long run, some good does come out of them.
- Growing up doesn't mean your loved ones will love you less or "kick you out".
- Affectionate Nickname: From Rarity to Spike as usual, this time with a touch of Busman's Vocabulary. She calls him "Precious Pants" when comforting him over his first stone scale.
- Ash Face: After Spike blasts it with a close-range gout of dragonfire, the roc's face — and as revealed in the following scene, its entire body — except for its yellow eyes becomes covered in ash and visibly charred feathers, trailing lines of smoke as the giant bird flies away.
- Aside Glance:
- When Spike claims his stone scale will "clear up after a good night's sleep", Rarity gives the audience a pointedly forlorn look.
- When Rarity bemoans the fact that getting captured by giant monsters doesn't get easier in her Drama Queen fashion, Zecora rolls her eyes at the audience.
- Beam Spam: Twilight once again uses this as her main form of attack when she engages the roc to try to save Rarity and Zecora, albeit with questionable success.
- Behind the Black: Zecora somehow fails to notice the massive roc that was right behind her when it swoops in to grab her.
- The Bus Came Back: After six seasons, Peewee, the baby phoenix that Spike briefly adopted in "Dragon Quest", only to reunite him with his family in "Just for Sidekicks", returns. And, boy, has he grown.
- The Cameo:
- Silverstream and Gallus can be seen outside the School of Friendship.
- Sandbar and Yona briefly appear in the library.
- Ceiling Cling: Smolder ends up clinging to the ceiling of the closet after dodging one of Spike's uncontrollable burps of fire.
- Comically Missing the Point:
- Pinkie Pie.
- When Spike lies to Rarity, telling her he's giving a tour, Pinkie (who had been assigned to do that very job) decides she has a "free day" and hands her tour group over to him.
- When she overhears Spike yelling, she believes he's in a "shouting closet".
- Rarity at the end of the episode.Spike: Don't you think there are wonderful things about flying that don't involve dresses?
Rarity: Of course, darling. Flying will also be beneficial for you to help me with gowns, frocks, robes...
- Pinkie Pie.
- Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Spike pulls out his old trenchcoat-and-fedora ensemble to hide his stone scales at the School of Friendship. Rarity comment on it, finding it "very noiresque". The disguise doesn't survive an ill-timed fire burp, though.
- Continuity Nod:
- Spike mentions the "call of the Dragon Lord" from "Gauntlet of Fire".
- When Rarity tells Spike to go to Zecora's hut to get a cream to remove his stone scales, she tells him to not take the shampoo.
- Twilight suggests Spike's ongoing Precocious Crush for Rarity may explain his stone scale breakout.
- While trying to hide his stone scales, Spike wears his disguise from "The Times, They Are a Changeling". Rarity compares it to something Shadow Spade would wear.
- Spike mentions what happened the last time he grew big. Smolder explains that greed just affects size while the molt is a natural aging process.
- When listing off the types of giant predators attracted to the smell of molting dragons, Smolder includes tatzlwurms and hydras, both of which were featured in previous episodes of the show.
- Rarity mentions her being captured by a giant creature (which can easily refer to both giant Spike in "Secret of My Excess" and the Bugbear in "Slice of Life"), and says being trapped by monsters doesn't get any easier.
- Damsel in Distress: Rarity and Zecora are captured by the roc and are saved by Twilight and Spike.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?:
- Red itchy spots on the skin, uncontrollable volume pitches, sleeping in late and smelling bad, all of which are viewed as signs of growing up. Dragon molt symptoms are almost identical to those of puberty. Growing Wings can also be seen as a metaphor for growing breasts or facial hair.
- Since Spike practically never wears clothes, Rarity's Affectionate Nickname for him has shades of Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
- Epileptic Flashing Lights: When Spike's rocky cocoon is starting to break up, light is pouring from the cracks, until it fully crumbles in a blinding flash.
- Peewee has grown up since Spike returned him home and Rarity thinks he left the nest, only for Peewee to fly by shortly afterwards. It also shows Peewee living in a separate nest from his parents, and Rarity alludes to the situation of a child leaving their home as they grow up. This foreshadows what Spike goes through and shows that even though he is growing up like Peewee has, he doesn't need to leave home yet.
- Twilight bringing up Spike's Precocious Crush when his stone scale breakout gets worse foreshadows Smolder's explanation that he's going through puberty.
- Early in the episode, Smolder mentions how one of the issues with going through the molt is that the terrible smell that comes off of molting dragons attracts predators like hydras, tatzlwurms and rocs. Later in the episode, after Rarity leaves Zecora's hut, Zecora finds Spike cowering under one of her masks... because indeed, his smell attracted a passing roc, who spends the rest of the episode trying to eat Spike.
- When Rarity encounters Spike at the school, she has trouble hearing him, saying her ears are a "little bit clogged". Later on, we learn that the Phoenix feathers she picked up have made her temporarily deaf.
- Funny Background Event: While Spike is encased in stone, Twilight is seen chasing the roc in the background and blasting at it trying to save Rarity and Zecora.
- Fun with Homophones: Spike is momentarily confused when Smolder tells him that the predators attracted by "molt smell" include rocs. Smolder has to literally spell it out for him to get the idea.Spike: Dragons are scared of rocks?
Smolder: R-O-C-S. Rocs?
- Geographic Flexibility: The fight with the roc happens in a very large, mostly treeless field, which is apparently a short distance from Zecora's hut — yet we've never seen it before.
- Giant Flyer: The roc is an example of the Large Flying Predator variety — it's a colossal bird of prey the height of a two- or three-story house, and its actions are primarily motivated by predatory instinct.
- Green-Eyed Monster: When Twilight mentions having breakouts before big tests, she resentfully states that Celestia "probably never had a blemish her whole life."
- Gross-Up Close-Up: The close-up of the "stone scales" have the appearance of pimples pushing up against dragon scales. Twilight is horrified upon seeing this for the first time.
- Growing Up Sucks: According to Smolder, the molt is something every dragon goes through when they grow up. It includes many embarrassing symptoms, such as horribly itchy red scales, disgusting body odor and uncontrollable shifts in voice volume, and the molter's family kicking them out.
- Growing Wings: After eight seasons, Spike finally acquires wings after going through the molt, an uncomfortable magical process that essentially serves as dragon puberty.
- He Is All Grown Up: Peewee is now fully grown, with a nest of his own.
- How Do I Shot Web?: After getting his wings, Spike struggles for a moment to figure out how to fly, crashing into a tree and flying upside-down. Even when Spike gets the hang of it, he falls back in the air while bragging about his new wings. All in all, he still masters flying rather quickly.
- Implausible Deniability: Twilight suggests that Spike's stone scales are caused by stress, pointing out he spent the day with Rarity. Spike awkwardly asks "What could possibly be stressful about that?"
- Innocently Insensitive: Smolder tells Spike about "the molt" and what it does to dragons, but nothing she tells him makes him feel any better, especially when she mentions that a molting dragon gets kicked out of their home.
- Instant Expert: Zig-zagged. While Spike has trouble flying at first, he soon gets the hang it enough to outfly the Roc.
- Kidnapping Bird of Prey: The Roc, a Giant Flyer and Feathered Fiend, is one of the Monster Bird variant seeking to make dinner out of Spike — and not minding the chance to carry off any ponies or zebras who might be nearby, either.
- Kill It with Fire: Spike defeats the roc by blasting it with a huge, point-blank burst of dragon-fire to the face. It's apparently non-lethal, although the bird does get severe Ash Face.
- Lampshade Hanging: During their trip to see Peewee, Spike comments he's been meaning to pay him a visit, and Rarity asks why Spike let him go — Spike got Peewee in Season 2 and he was Put on a Bus offscreen without a second appearance until now.
- Lazy Bum: After fending off the roc, Spike has Twilight carry him back home, despite his new wings.Twilight Sparkle: Uh, I don't need to carry you anymore, do I? You have wings.
Spike: They are new, and I don't want to overdo it.
- Metamorphosis: The final molt stage involves Spike being covered in a rocky chrysalis, before emerging with his new wings grown and ready to carry him in flight.
- Mondegreen Gag:
- When Spike strains to speak in complete sentences, ponies, Smolder and Zecora mishear him as saying different things than the original intent.
- When Smolder is warning Spike about potential predators of young dragons, he mishears "rocs" as "rocks" and asks why dragons would be afraid of stones.
- Mundane Utility: Rarity finds Spike's wings to be useful for him to model dresses at any height.
- Nature Versus Nurture: When Smolder explains "the molt effect" to Spike, she says she doesn't really understand herself why a molter gets kicked out of their home and assumes it's genetic. After Spike grows his wings though, Twilight refuses to let him leave, stating this isn't the Dragon Lands.
- No Indoor Voice: Rarity in the second half of the episode, due to the phoenix feathers affecting her hearing, and Spike intermittently throughout, due to the Molt causing his voice's volume to shift up and down uncontrollably. Pinkie Pie comes in the utility closet Spike and Smolder talk at one point, shouting.
- No Sense of Personal Space: Smolder seems to have this, as she follows Spike into a broom closet and ignores his request to be left alone.
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Due to the molt, Spike has begun to mature symbolized by his newly-sprouted wings.
- Parental Abandonment: According to Smolder, a molting dragon's parents will kick them out of their home once the molt starts.
- Plot Allergy: Rarity's hearing loss from handling phoenix feathers allows her to be in Zecora's hut without noticing Spike despite his involuntary volume shifts.
- Retcon: In this episode, Phoenix feathers are shown to cause temporary deafness in ponies. But in "A Bird in the Hoof", Fluttershy was given a feather from Philomena (placed in her mane) with no ill effects. (Though admittedly, Zecora only says that the ear clogging "can" happen, not that it "will" happen. The amount of feathers involved might also be a factor.)
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: This happens to Smolder when she finds out Spike has no idea what "the molt" is or what it does to dragons.Smolder: Have you been living with ponies your whole life?
- Right Behind Me: Rarity doesn't see the roc behind her until it swoops in and grabs her in the same claw as Zecora. That she can't hear it coming is at least justified by her temporary deafness.
- Rise of Zitboy: The first sign of Spike's impending molt is a red stone scale on his cheek. The next morning, his face is covered with stone scales, and later that day they're all over his body. At one point, he even tries to pop a stone scale as a teen would pop a zit. Rarity initially downplays it as just "the occasional odd blemish," and Twilight compares it to stress-related breakouts she used to get in Magic School; turns out Spike's going through dragon puberty. Zecora says as much when Spike asks her to help cure it.Zecora: The ailments you have aren't something to cure. The molt's a condition that dragons endure.
- Roc Birds: While in the Everfree Forest, the smell Spike is emitting attracts a roc; it promptly tries to eat him and the ponies he's with, strafing its ground-bound targets and trying to carry them off in its talons. It's stated that rocs, alongside hydras and tatzlwurms, are the main predators faced by young, molting dragons newly kicked out of their homes, tracking them down through the smell they produce and stopping at nearly nothing to devour them. There's also a moment of confusion early on when Smolder is explaining this to Spike, and he thinks she's talking about rocks instead.Smolder: That molt stench is a magnet for predators. Tatzlwurms, hydras, rocs...
Spike: Dragons are scared of rocks?
Smolder: R-O-C-S. Rocs? Humongous birds of prey that can snack on a molting dragon like candy!
- Running Gag: Both Rarity and Twilight tell Spike to try a cream from Zecora to ease his stone scales. Rarity later goes to get some, with Zecora calling it "very popular".
- Shameful Shrinking: As Pinkie Pie palms off her school-tour duty to Spike, who really doesn't want to be seen by anypony this day, Spike is seen shrinking on himself with the typical Wacky Sound Effect.
- When the roc flies off carrying Spike, Rarity, and Zecora, the former paraphrases Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments with "Let my ponies go!"
- Spike rising out of the rock cocoon (with a spherical part of the ground gone) mimics the first appearance of the T-800 in The Terminator.
- For that matter, the rock cocoon itself is similar to Inhuman transformations through Terrigenesis in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
- Smack on the Back: Smolder smacks Spike on the back while congratulating him for growing up. Because of his stone scales, though, the smack ends up painful for Spike.
- Suddenly Shouting: One of the molt symptoms is uncontrollable volume shifts, making Spike switch back and forth from shouting to whispering.
- Supernaturally Delicious and Nutritious: Young dragons becomes this during their molt, as Spike finds out the hard way. The smell they excrete, while repugnant to most other creatures, attract giant predators such as hydras, tatzlwurms or rocs. Thus Spike nearly gets eaten by a very persistent giant bird in the Everfree Forest.
- Teleport Spam: Twilight makes good use of her teleportation as a defensive move, first to dodge one of Spike's uncontrolled fire burp, and then to avoid a diving charge from the Roc.
- Took a Level in Badass: Spike finally grows a pair of wings, allowing him to outfly an angry roc, help Twilight save Rarity and Zecora and defeat the roc with one massive fire breath.
- Trailers Always Spoil: One of the Season 8 promotional videos released a couple months before "Molt Down" aired showed Spike getting wings, spoiling the episode's big twist.
- Transformation Horror: Some of the symptoms of the molt are quite unsettling, particularly the itchy "stone scales" that cover Spike's entire body, and the final stage when he's Taken for Granite before sprouting his wings.
- Trash Talk: Used by Spike when he agrees to distract the roc while Twilight tries to free their friends.Spike: Hey, giant chicken! If you like dragons so much, come and get me!
- The Unreveal: Why molting dragons are forced to leave their homes. Smolder believes it's just something genetic, and the actual reason is never really known.
- Wardrobe Malfunction: While in the School of Friendship's library, Spike gets another uncontrolled fire burp. Since he's surrounded by some students and tourists at the moment, he directs the flame breath at the floor in order to not hurt anybody. This causes him to end up wreathed in flames, and although he's unharmed thanks to dragons' immunity to fire, his Conspicuous Trenchcoat doesn't survive, turning to ashes.
- Wham Episode: Spike undergoes a permanent change by Growing Wings just like all other dragons depicted in the series, and keeps them throughout the remainder of the show's run.
- Wham Shot: Spike gets engulfed by a stone cocoon, emerges among lots of light... and spreads his wings. If you weren't spoiled of this twist, this is pretty shocking to see it happen eight seasons into the show.
- Wing Ding Eyes: The Roc's eyes become filled with red and yellow rings after Spike's flying makes it dizzy, and it briefly gains similar rings in its left eye when Twilight blasts its left claw with magic.
- Worldbuilding: The episode reveals that Spike's temporary, Greed-induced growth spurt seen in "Secret of My Excess" is totally different from a dragon's natural maturity. It also reveals that a dragon's wings don't grow until they hit a certain level of maturity, explaining why Spike was the only dragon depicted in the series without wings up until now.