Thoughts on the new MLP:FiM episode, "Spike at Your Service" — reposted from broniesaremagic as usual.
Overall assessment: it was OK, all in all. The plot seemed a bit contrived, really; not necessarily the fact that Spike has a dragon code that he holds in such high regard, not even his klutziness he displayed at Applejack's (that's probably just dramatic necessity), but why was Applejack, the Element of Honesty of all things, unable to tell him the truth? And why did Applejack, the Element of Honesty, resort to staging a fake timber wolf attack instead of just coming right out and saying what needed to be said? Doubly so since she was able to say what needed to be said in the end: even though they could just have been considered to be "even steven" after Spike saved her, they did talk and resolve things properly. So why not that right away? Not hurting his feelings I can understand, but given the havoc he wreaked and the prospect of having to deal with him for the rest of her days, or at least a considerable amount of time, I'd have thought she'd be a little more willing (and able) to sit him down and tell him the truth, even if it'd have been uncomfortable for him in the beginning.
I did like the timber wolves, especially the fact that they really are literally made from timber. It's creative, and it also takes away some of the edge that they would otherwise have: no matter how scary they might seem, after all, in the end, they're just leaves and branches and logs and twigs, at least to the viewers of the series (if not necessarily to the ponies). I'm slightly concerned that they're reinforcing the meme that wolves are dangerous and/or will attack people, but they are cute, and don't seem to be portrayed as genuinely bad: they're just part of the Everfree Forest's fauna, magical creatures that may be dangerous at times but that you don't truly have to be afraid of. (Note e.g. how Applejack had absolutely no second thoughts about venturing into the Everfree to investigate the balloon, and how even Apple Bloom goes in there in other episodes to go to Zecora's.)
(EDIT: The timber wolves' animation was also interesting, BTW. I've since been told that they're actually animated in 3D, as opposed to the rest of the series, which is animated in 2D; I do agree that the crew did a remarkable job at integrating the two.)
Speaking of Applejack, the scene where Spike was massaging her back was entirely too cute. :) And speaking of Spike in turn, he sure was quite huggy, wasn't he? Not just towards Applejack, but also towards Twilight in the end.
I noticed that Rainbow Dash called Applejack "AJ". I can't recall, did anypony do that before in the series? Also, Dashie sure can roar, can't she?
I also paid a bit more attention to the background music this time — just a little bit. The "chivalric" theme that was playing for Spike with his ambition to be seen as a noble dragon was neat; unfortunately, you can't really pay conscious attention to the background music most of hte time if you're also paying attention to the action and the dialogue.
I also like how they ended the episode with a brohoof. :) Another deliberate nod to bronies, I wonder? Either way, it was neat. :)