These reviews do contain spoilers. Read on at your own discretion.
It's amazing how much Spike has improved in such little time recently. For the longest time, his episodes were often either mediocre at best or complete disasters, but that has since changed. He's gotten the much needed revamp to his character that he's needed, has major character development, shown the best of him and what he can do, and just recently this season has finally earned this wings. The days of Spike abuse and bad episodes for him are now nothing more than a bad memory and I can say confidentially it's something that'll never come back to haunt him ever again.
Despite this though, there's still two things to Spike I still want to know about him. The first being his crush on Rarity and some resolution on it. I know the team has been trying to stay neutral with trying not to make shippings canon, but I would like some resolution to this before or at the series finale. The second one, and possibly the most important one, is the mystery surrounding his parents and where he came from. Since it was first shown in The Cutie Mark Chronicles, there's been a constant debate about where Spike's egg came from and who his parents are. This has been something I've been wondering myself and something I want the show to explore.
So when I heard about Father Knows Beast, I was pretty shocked to hear they were finally going to talk about this. Finally, an episode about where Spike came from and how his egg ended up in Equestria. It sounds like a great idea to finally go into detail about this. What we get though may be one of the more controversial episodes of the series itself with what it pulls. Despite how it hints and what it seems to build up to, Father Knows Beast may anger some people with what it does, but I think this episode also manages to accomplish something good for Spike.
When a dragon named Sludge crashes into Ponyville, Spike takes him to the castle to be treated for his wounds. While there. Sludge tells Spike that he's his real dad and wants to teach him what it means to be a real dragon. At first, Spike and the others are happy to welcome Sludge around and show him, but his way of "teaching" raises some eyebrows. Meanwhile, Twilight is worried about losing Spike since he's found his real dad at last. So now the question is what is Sludge's true intentions and is he really Spike's dad.
Something you may pick up early on in this episode is that it revisits another Spike episode with part of its premise; Dragon Quest. Part of the plot in that episode involved Spike trying to figure out what it means to be a dragon and some of its culture. While Gauntlet of Fire was the sequel to that episode, this one is more or less a retread to that and tries to fix some of the problems that episode had. While I didn't hate that episode, I do feel it had a lot of issues to it that brought it down.
This episode does try to improve on some of those things, and I think it does make it better than that. For one thing, there's not as much Spike abuse in this episode compared to Dragon Quest. For another thing, the other Mane 7 don't tease him for not being more like a dragon (although that was mostly Rainbow doing that). Plus it at least tries to develop a bit more on Spike's part of trying to learn to be a proper dragon instead of it going for an episode dealing with peer pressure.
Some people may be turned off a bit by how Spike is portrayed in this episode. I don't think he was written bad at all, but he does suffer some problems. When it comes to the flying at the start of the episode, he messes up even though we've seen him do some flying already. Well, when it came to Molt Down, Spike's amazing flying was purely adrenaline when he saw his friends in danger. Plus, Smolder does point out dragons fly differently than ponies, so that's not really a problem.
There's also the fact of how rather naive he is in this episode. While I do agree Spike was a bit too gullible in the episode and he's smart, he's still rather young and still can be lead astray. Even the other Mane 7 were gullible in this episode too with the way Sludge acts, so almost everyone in this episode was really fooled. Plus, Spike did want to know and learn more about dragons, so he took what seemed to be a golden chance to finally learn some things.
Something I do like in this episode is the interactions between Spike and Smolder. While some do ship them (I really don't at all), I like to view them as having a brother and sister relationship, and I appreciate the episode exploring a bit more on it. There's some general character development for Smolder as she tries to teach Spike some stuff about dragons, and even learns a few things at the end. I do wish she played more of a role in the episode as she just appears in the first act, and disappears until towards the end of the episode. It would've been nice for her to see her try to investigate and find out more about Sludge.
Sludge is voiced by Dave Pettitt. He does a really good job as Sludge, although he sounds like he's got a bit of a New York accent going on. Didn't know they had a New York in the Dragon Lands. The design for Sludge is decent and when it comes to him saying he's Spike's dad, he does kind of have a few similar features. He has the same round scales on his head that purplish and the fins on his side are almost similar too.
From the start, it gets pretty obvious about Sludge and what he's really doing. Not only does he look and sound shady, but his actions leading up to telling Spike he's his dad are highly questionable from the start. He puts together a rather good story telling about how Spike's mom was chosen to find the dragon migration path and how he ended up captured himself. However, he fails to tell how the egg ended up in Equestria properly and got to Celestia's hooves. Actually, now that I think of it, I think Celestia should've been called in since the egg was hers and meet up with Spike's dad.
He also provides us with the last song of the season. It's another great song, but not as good as the one in Road to Friendship or Sounds of Silence. The song itself has a jazzy feel to it that works well, and the lyrics are pretty goood. Certainly kind of wish Spike got to sing a bit too since he's done well in the past, but that's a minor gripe. The song may not be the best of the season, but it's a good song nonetheless.
Throughout the episode, Spike learns from Sludge about what it means to be a real dragon like no fluffy stuff, sleeping outside, and being at Sludge's beck and call. All the while, Twilight grows worried about the way Sludge is teaching Spike these methods and feels he's not being himself. This does lead to an argument where Spike accuses Twilight of not being acceptable of dragons and states she's not happy because he's got a real dad; which breaks Twilight's heart.
Again, it may seem vastly out of character for Spike to be like this, but consider this. While earlier Spike did consider his friends like family, he never considered any of them, especially Twilight to be like an actual mom or other parental figure to him. If you also recall back in Winter Wrap Up, Spike stated to Twilight, albeit in a half awake state, that she wasn't his mom at all. Once again though, Spike finally saw his chance to learn more about the way of the dragon. At this point too, Spike has all but fallen under Sludge's will.
One thing I should point out about this scene though is that it does confirm something I, and a lot of other people, have theorized for a while; that Twilight is like a mom to Spike. While she doesn't flat out say it, when it comes to Spike saying to her that he's found his real dad, it broke her heart because she raised him and basically treated him like a son to her. To hear Spike tell her that he's found a real parent was devastating to her because it felt like all those years together were probably for nothing and is ready to abandon her. It's a rather touching scene to see Twilight seemingly not wanting to lose someone who's like a son to her.
Eventually, Smolder sees Spike again and after hearing some of the stuff about what Sludge has done, she figures something is wrong. She decides to help come up with a plan to expose Sludge's true intentions. As such, Spike decides to pack up things and tells Sludge that Twilight doesn't want any real dragons around, so they'll be moving to a cave Smolder found. Sludge tries to get out of it, but after getting into a fight over a pillow, Sludge finally admits something we probably all knew around the start when we saw him;
He wasn't Spike's dad at all.
Sludge states he did this all to take advantage of the castle and live the good life. He argues that this is something dragons would do, but Smolder shares her disagreements about what he's done. This naturally upsets Spike, and it honestly it kind of pisses me off too. Not only is this another deception this season (seriously, what's with this season and deception being one of the themes?), but when I saw the second half of season 8's trailer, I was shocked to learn this news. At the same time though, I'm glad this guy didn't end up being Spike's dad since he's not only a lazy, fat jerk, but he's also an abuser. He's everything wrong with dragons and are better than Sludge.
And it's why I think he's a great villain.
Let me explain that one. Sludge is a manipulative monster for what he pulled to Spike, but that's what makes him such a good villain. Every other dragon villain in the past like Garble and that dragon from Dragonshy has always relied on either pure intimidation to get their own way, or just simple brawn over brains. Sludge is far different from that. While we know he's lying from the start, he takes his time with his scheme and plays his cards carefully to make sure things go his way. He puts together a good story about Spike's supposed mom and how Spike became an orphan. For all we know too, what happened to him at the start when he crashed could've also been a way to manipulate the others to do his bidding without little to no questions at all. Never before has a character lived up to his name like Sludge has; he's pure scum.
You know, while I always enjoy seeing Spike take him down a few notches, even Garble is a better dragon than Sludge. Garble may be a bully, but at least he has a sense of honor and duty to him. When Spike became Dragon Lord temporarily, he doesn't flat out disobey Spike, he follows them and does what he's told no matter how humiliating the commands were. He has a better chance of reforming and being a better dragon than Sludge ever will. Sludge is basically a villain I love to hate; he's everything wrong with the dragons and I mean everything wrong.
So after leaving, Spike falls into a bit of a depression about what he just learned. In a rare moment of kindness, Smolder sympathizes with Spike about what happened and how hard it must be to find out who you really are; especially with no real parents around. It's a pretty nice scene and some more good character development for Smolder. Again, it shows that despite being tough on the outside, Smolder does seem to look out for Spike like a big sister.
Spike decides to head back to Twilight and tells her what happened. After everything that happened and what Spike said, Twilight comforts him and does her best to make him comfortable. Spike apologizes for what he did and states that Twilight is his real family all along. They both share a tender moment and Twilight even offers Spike to go to the Dragon Lands to find out more about his family, but he declines. Frankly though, I'm wondering why Twilight doesn't go berserk after what Sludge did and chase him down for basically abusing someone she raised and treats like a son. Maybe she'll send a message to Ember to find him and take care of him.
While not perfect and not as great as the other Spike episode this season, Father Knows Beast isn't a bad episode at all. This is another rather solid Spike episode, but it does have its problems. If we were to look at some of the other Spike episodes in the past, I can safely say it's not as bad as the likes of Princess Spike, Spike at Your Service, or Owl's Well That Ends Well. It's a great episode, but it's not without its share of flaws.
I'll start off by saying it's a good premise and the concept is there. I do applaud them for finally going back and trying to answer about Spike's egg and his possible real parents. It didn't go the way we'd all hope it would, but at least they finally got around to talking about it. For what it does, I think the episode does a pretty good job trying to go into this topic. If were to look at this as a revisit to Dragon Quest, it's a vast improvement as it does fix most of the key issues with it and does try to expand more on dragons.
Spike himself is fine for the most part, but I do think maybe he was a little too gullible. I know he's still rather young and all, but I don't think he's that naive anymore. For the most part though, he does have some good character development for himself as he finally accepts that Twilight is like a mom to him. The bonding between him and Smolder is great, but I do wish Smolder herself appeared more in the episode. Plus, at least he takes the whole revelation of Sludge's lie rather well all things considered.
The song itself is pretty good, although not as great as the previous two songs this season. It's pretty catchy for what it is, and I did like the jazzy feel it had to it. The pacing is a bit off, but not too terribly bad. While it does rely somewhat heavily on montages, this doesn't feel anywhere as bad as Yakity-Sax where it felt either annoying or just have unfunny moments.
Sludge, for as much as I hate him, is an enjoyable villain and one I can love to hate so much. He lives up to his name and I feel he's one of the smarter dragons we've seen in the show. While most dragons seem to be relying on intimidation or brawn in general, Sludge uses his brain and can manipulate others to his own desire. He's simply put everything that's wrong with dragons into one big, fat lazy jerk who I hope will one day get some proper comeuppance. Maybe Spike confronts him one last time and puts him in his place.
The moral itself is great overall. While some may want to know who their real parents are, family can come from almost anyone at all. It doesn't have to be strictly by blood relation or anything, but by those who do raise you to become the person you are today. Family is more than just simply blood relations, but also is for those who look out for you and help make you into the person you are today. It's a pretty good moral to learn and one that I think suits Spike well.
For all my praise though, I argue though this episode's major flaw above all is that it got everyone hyped up that we'd maybe finally meet Spike's parents. This ended up just being another deceptive thing in a season that's already seemingly gotten infamous for lying or misleading others to thinking something will happen. This isn't as bad as The Mean 6 as it doesn't have promotions stating specifically that Spike meets his dad. Unlike The Mean 6's deceptive commercials making it look like a fight between the Mean 6 vs. the Mane 6, the same doesn't apply here. But I'm still wondering why this season is suddenly so hellbent on just relying on deception.
I also had hopes maybe Sludge was really Spike's dad because it would've then been perfect to explore something most shows, especially kid's shows, don't go into detail about; abusive parents. There was one TV show I remembered that had something rather similar to this one. It was The Fresh Prince of Bel-air. In one episode, Will finally found his dad and was ecstatic to finally be with him again. Unfortunately, the dad wanted nothing to do with Will and at the end runs away from him again. Will finally accepts his dad hated him and breaks down in tears as the truth hits him. Uncle Phil, who's often been at odds with Will and butts heads with him, embraces him in comfort as he tries to make his nephew feel better. It also showed that despite being his uncle, Phil was the father figure Will never truly had and it basically showed that Phil treated him like another son. I thought this episode would've been perfect to explore something like that and talk about.
Maybe you could argue that would be too dark to place in this show, but I disagree. I mean we just have had a season where we discovered Gallus is an orphan, touch upon a hippogriff dealing with divorced parents, had the Tree of Harmony go Ark of the Covenant on evil clones of the Mane 6, made Silverstream have PTSD from seeing the Storm King's shadow, and had Rockhoof contemplate suicide. I don't think this wouldn't be any darker than what we've seen so far. Besides, as terrible as it is, there are parents who are like that, and I think it would've been a good time to talk about that.
I don't want to say this is the final time we'll talk about Spike's egg either. The story Sludge came up with is convincing enough, but this was most likely just another deception by him to garner more sympathy and make the Mane 7 feel sorry for him. While Spike has accepted Twilight as family, I feel he should go back to the Dragon Lands and finally learn the truth of his egg and how it ended up in Equestria in the first place. Spike accepting Twilight as his mom I have no issues with, but I feel that it won't satisfy everyone; especially if you're like me and wanting to know the origins of Spike's egg.
The rumor is that the next season of FiM will be the last, so if that's true, it'll be the show's last chance to finally getting to it. After eight seasons of theories, speculation, and ideas, it's time to finally get a proper explanation about Spike's egg and where it came from. I'll even settle for his parents not being shown. Just show us how Celestia got the egg in the first place. Was it a peace offering from Dragon Lord Torch? Did Celestia find an abandon nest and see the one egg left? I'd love for them to finally just give us the answer we've all been waiting so long for.
Like I said earlier, this isn't one of Spike's best episodes, but it's not a bad episode at all. It's a pretty great episode all things considered. It doesn't hold a candle to Molt Down from earlier this season, but this one feels almost on par with Triple Threat. Compared to the rest of the season, it's not one of the best episodes, but it's a pretty great episode that has some character growth Spike and Smolder, teaches a good moral, and that it does confirm Spike viewing Twilight as a mother to him. While it suffers a few pacing issues and the fact that the story didn't go the way I hope it would about Spike's possible dad, it's still a great episode and continues Spike's streak of good episodes. May not be the best episode this season, but it's a solid entry in my books.
Perhaps next season they'll touch upon Spike's egg again. Sometime before the show ends, I think we all deserve a proper explanation about why Spike ended up in Equestria. Even if you aren't exactly a fan of this episode, I'll give them credit for touching upon the topic of Spike and what Twilight means to him. Besides, I'm going to hold out hope for that possibility that maybe we'll see Spike's real parents. If we've seen the parents of the Mane 7, I think we will see Spike's real parents in the near future. Just hopefully it will live up to the hype.
FINAL SCORE: 7.5 out of 10 ( B )
Season 8 episodes ranking from best to worst:
A Rockhoof and a Hard Place
What Lies Beneath
The Hearth's Warming Club
Road to Friendship
Surf and/or Turf
The Break Up Breakdown
Father Knows Beast (NEW)
Grannies Gone Wild
The Parent Map
The Maud Couple
Sounds of Silence
Fake it Til You Make it
The End in Friend
The Mean 6
A Matter of Principals