I am truly disappointed! This is NOT the Spike I know and love! – Twilight Sparkle
This is the other episode that tends to top many Worst Episode lists for Season 1, or overall. I guess I can sort of see why. Is has quite a number of flaws in characterization, writing and execution. Let’s turn a baleful gaze upon “Owl’s Well” and see why it tends to make people cough up pellets.
The episode starts off cheerfully enough, with Spike helping Twilight to make arrangements for an evening of meteor shower watching. His general preparedness and organizational skills earn him words of praise from Twilight for being “a number one assistant”. As they are about to leave to meet the rest of the Mane Six (and other ponies), Twilight remembers a book she wants to bring, the “Astronomical Astronomer’s Almanac to All Things Astronomical.”
Spike goes to fetch the book, but the dust from opening it makes him sneeze. The resulting involuntary blast of flame burns the pages to ashes. Spike puts the cover of the ruined book back rather than owning up to the mistake, and steals Fluttershy’s ominous chord cue.
At the picnic and meteor watching site, Spike’s spread of fruit, cookies and punch impresses the other ponies, who gather round to praise him. He even gets a present from his crush, Rarity: a bejeweled bow tie. He begins to milk his moment in the spotlight for all its worth, until Twilight tells him enough.
As the meteor shower starts, the youngsters sitting on their sisters’ backs, Spike begins to yawn, and eventually ends up asleep in the punch bowl. Twilight returns home with him, and tucks him into bed, proud of her worn out little assistant. She starts to work on a report about comets. (It seems to be scientifically accurate, raising some questions. To what degree is Equestrian astronomy the same as real life astronomy? Twilight’s description of what comets are seems to argue that real life physics holds sway, but how does that tie in to magically raising the sun and the moon? It’s not that important to the story, of course, but I do wonder…)
A stiff breeze sends her paper sailing out the window, and she wishes that Spike were awake to go fetch it, but she finds there’s no need… an owl has brought it back for her. Thankful for the assistance, and aware of how cold the night can be, Twilight invites the owl to remain with her while she continues writing her report.
The following morning, Spike is aghast to discover he’s overslept, and hasn’t done his morning chores. Despite his flustering, Twilight tells him not to worry: the owl – to whom she has given the name Owlowiscious – has already done them. Spike insists that she doesn’t need another assistant, but Twilight brushes off his protests and tells him to make friends with Owlowiscious as she goes out to run some errands.
Unnerved at the owl’s ability to twist his neck around, Spike tries to make it clear that he is the superior assistant. The conversation, being only “hoo” on the one side, ends up frustrating him, and makes him even more certain that Owlowiscious has come to try and steal his job of being Twilight’s assistant. His concerns grow even more when the new arrival starts getting attention from the Mane Six, and Owlowiscious even receives another bow tie from Rarity.
Fluttershy and the other suggest that maybe he’s worried about Owlowiscious replacing him as assistant and in Twilight’ and the rest’s affections, but Twilight doesn’t believe them, despite Spike’s clear dissatisfaction with the situation. This is the first major problem. Twilight disregards what the others have to say, when it’s entirely obvious that they’re right. Adding to the annoyance is the fact that this is paid only lip service later on.
When Twilight breaks her last quill, Spike eagerly dashes out to obtain a replacement. However, he gets nothing but frustration: the Quill and Sofas shop only has sofas in stock, Pinkie has everything beginning with Q except a quill, and Fluttershy’s chickens are leery of lending their own feathers. He eventually manages to obtain a tiny chicken feather, but on returning to the Library, he is told that Owlowiscious provided one of his own feathers for a quill already.
He asks sarcastically if he has any chores left that Owlowiscious hasn’t done, and again Twilight is oblivious to the signs of his anger, telling him that he has plenty still. He falls asleep on the stairs midsentence, and Twilight decides to let him sleep.
He’s in for a rude awakening when Twilight discovers (via Owlowiscious) that the book he ruined was in its place the entire time, and hadn’t been missing like he’d claimed. Angry at him for his lie, she gives him a tongue lashing and leaves in a huff. Spike confronts Owlowiscious, but is given the “hoo” treatment yet again. Having read a book on owls earlier, Spike knows that they eat mice, but not that they can only hoot? It’s a minor gripe, but they’re adding up.
This is the point where things get really weird. Spike, seeing a mouse running past, decides to frame Owlowiscious for mouse murder, and suddenly dons a top hat, a black cloak and a moustache of evil, and laughs maniacally. What the actual…? This needs more analysis than will fit here, so see below for that.
Stealing Opal’s toy mouse from Rarity’s place, he rips it up, splashes ketchup all over to simulate blood, and even pulls the feathers out of a pillow to create a fake trail of owl feathers for the frame… which would possibly have worked better if he didn’t walk backwards right into Twilight while he was busy setting it up. He tries to baldface his way out, but Twilight is now simply furious, not only for him trying to frame Owlowiscious, but for doing such an unconvincing job of it. She lays into him again (using the words quoted at the top) and slams the door behind her.
Convinced that she doesn’t want him around anymore, Spike runs away from home. A sudden downpour starts, and he takes shelter in a cave. Fortunately, the cave is filled with gems, and Spike has himself a little feeding frenzy. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to overcome his sadness at being exiled from his friends. Even more unfortunately, those gems belong to a much larger and fiercer dragon. Being a baby dragon and apologizing doesn’t win him any sympathy points, and the larger dragon starts chasing him around the cave.
Trapped in a corner and about to become an ex-dragon, Spike is saved by Owlowiscious, whose fancy flying distracts the dragon away from Spike. Twilight is also there, and calls for him to jump on her back. Exiting the cave, they start running through a dark wood with an enraged dragon close on their heels. It doesn’t seem like a winning proposition, but Owlowiscious comes to the rescue again, using his night vision to guide Twilight and Spike through the trees. They manage to lose the dragon and escape.
Glad to be reunited with Twilight, and reassured that she would never want him to leave, no matter how badly he behaves, Spike still wants to know how they found him. Twilight points to his ketchup covered feet, saying that he left an easy trail for Owlowiscious to follow. Spike apologizes for misunderstanding Owlowiscious’ intentions, but is stymied for a third time by Owlowiscious forgiving him with hoots.
Back at the Library, Twilight tells Spike he should write the letter to Celestia. He does, saying how one shouldn’t lie or be jealous, and pledges to do… something we never hear, because he falls asleep. Twilight sighs, “Oh, Spike…” and gets her own chance to misunderstand Owlowiscious’ hoots. She laughs at her own stupidity, and Owlowiscious sees us out with a wink to the audience.
Thoughts on the Episode
Well, there are some major problems here. Twilight totally misreads Spike throughout the episode, even after being told exactly what he’s feeling by the others, and the only acknowledgement of this is one line about her being insensitive. That’s quite a stretch considering how close the two are.
Secondly, it really does seem like Owlowiscious has ulterior motives, with the way some of the scenes are shot to make him seem really creepy. Of particular note is the scene where Twilight walks out and he slowly turns his head to look at Spike just before the door slams. Not to mention that he did grabs books for Twilight, despite Spike being awake and about to do the same task, and that he showed Twilight the book Spike ruined and lied about.
Not only were all those scenes apparently red herrings, but Twilight at the end tells Spike that Owlowiscious is only supposed to help her at night while Spike is sleeping, which is not at all what he was doing earlier in the episode.
Yet Spike still gets cast as the villain. The scene with the Dick Dastardly impersonation really came out of left field. It was entirely unnecessary, and just ends up seeming out of place and annoying. The scene would have worked just fine if it had been done just with simple expressions. I mean, yes, framing an innocent bird for something he didn’t do is pretty bad, but Spike should at least think it justified, if he really believed Owlowiscious was threatening to replace him. So it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for him to act as a outright villain.
Is there any good to be had? Well, the action scene with the adult dragon was quite exciting. Both Spike and Owlowiscious get a fourth wall glance, which is interesting. The set up with the burnt book was relatively well done, and there are some funny scenes, which I’ll quote below.
Overall, it’s a pretty lackluster episode, but in its defense, its flaws are less glaring than in Over a Barrel. I still watch it on odd occasions.
When Spike falls asleep in the punch bowl.
Pinkie: "Now the punch has been... Spiked!"
Spike tries unsuccessfully to get a quill for Twilight.
Spike: "But your store is called 'Quills and Sofas'! You only sell two things!"
Shopowner: "Sorry, junior, all out of quills until Monday... need a sofa?
Pros: Some good action and comedy scenes.
Cons: Spike is way off character, Twilight is way too oblivious to how he feels, Owlowiscious really does act like he's undermining Spike, the scene with the hat and cape is a bit silly. The "hoo" joke was really overused - 4 times!
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon!
Next time, I’ll be looking at the final review I have to do in Season 1, A Party of One, and it’s much better an episode than this one. So until then, stay sunny side up!