Good evening everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"! Wooh, goodness gracious me was this episode a breath of fresh air! Now, do not get me wrong, this whole season has been incredibly exceptional, but sometimes you need a break from the incredible. What exactly do I mean? Well... to be blunt, the last five episodes have ranged from very exceptional (in "Not Asking for Trouble" and "Discordant Harmony") to divisive for very good reason (in "Fame and Misfortune") to among the most amazing showings that MLP has ever had to offer (in "A Royal Problem" and "The Perfect Pear", my new personal favorite in the entire show). I don't think we've had stretches of awesome this consistent in a season since Season 2, and I kind of forgot how exhausting that can be sometimes. Make no mistake, I have adored every minute of Season 7 (with the exception of the unfathomable awful that was "Hard to Say Anything"), but the show can't be amazing every week, and sometimes we just need a break with a really solid, flat out good episode that is very Slice of Life in nature. Although it features two very unusual main characters we've rarely seen on the show, I fully believe that "Triple Threat" is exactly that, a solid Slice of Life offering that was just, all around, good. That's it, just good, and it's fine being just that. This shouldn't be a terribly long review at all, so without further ado, let's dive right in. This is "Triple Threat"!
WOOOOOOOOOOOO, SUPERHERO LANDING!!!
So, curiously enough, this was our first Spike-centric episode of the season. How does it hold up as far as Spike episodes go? Eh, alright. I've seen Spike written far worse in the past, but some of his character here did feel a touch OOC, even if the reasons for his behavior were understandable. Spike had a ton of responsibilities to juggle here, starting with (1) welcoming Ember to Ponyville, (2) welcoming Thorax to Ponyville after he realized he'd invited him there on the same day, and (3) solving a friendship problem that arose in the middle of their visits. Between playing ambassador to two visiting leaders of their respective people as well as solving a friendship problem which was unknown to him, Spike certainly had plenty to juggle. My beef with how he was written, though, was that about halfway through the episode, when he learned he had a friendship problem to solve, he seemed to (1) not consider at all that it might have something to do with Ember and Thorax and (2) forget altogether that the visiting monarchs should probably take precedence over the friendship problem. Granted, I get what he was doing: from the start of the episode he was trying to keep everything organized in a manner he'd learned from Twilight, by keeping plenty of lists, but that all went to shit when Thorax showed up and sent Spike into a panic. He probably figured he'd have all the time in the world to GIVE to Ember and Thorax once he solved the friendship problem. The problem is that he kept going out of his way to avoid Ember and Thorax in the course of trying to solve really simple "friendship" problems that were really just little disputes or spats, which seemed a bit off for Spike, even a really panicky one. Dude's been around long enough to know how to properly prioritize what is and isn't most important to address. The episode redeemed how it treated Spike a tad in my eyes at the end when it turned out that not only was he the one who created the friendship problem in the first place (which I thought was really clever), but the one who needed to learn a lesson as well (though I have no idea why that means he was the one who was glowing, and not Ember or Thorax considering they were the ones who solved the problem), but still, he was a bit frustrating at times. That said, the state of panic he was in the whole time was pretty hilarious (especially his "you've gotta be shitting me!" face when the friendship map summoned him), and Starlight's own schadenfreude-like amusement directed toward Spike at one point very much summed up the amusement I myself got from how everything was working out for him. Hardly the worst Spike episode ever, but not exactly a great or even good one, at least not for Spike.
The best part of the episode has got to be, hands down, Ember and Thorax (arguably the true main characters of the episode as well). This was Thorax's first truly regular appearance, if we're being honest, since his debut episode; he was a largely supporting player in the Season 6 finale (mostly there because the plot demanded it, even if he was perfectly fine), and he barely had anything to do at all in the Season 7 opener. Here, he had an actual problem that needed resolving (which may even come up again later in the season if the episode title of Episode 17, "To Change a Changeling," is anything to go by), and even better it was tied to his role as leader of the new, reformed changeling pack (as an aside, I do find it a bit odd that they're not calling it a changeling hive anymore, but rather a pack, but whatever, doesn't bug me too much).
Awwwwww yeah, cute deer bug pony loves da fire, he loves it so, so much!
Ember too, in her first appearance since her debut, was just as pleasing to see. Like Thorax, she had a leadership problem that needed resolving as well, tied into her own people, the dragons.
There were two things that worked especially well with these two. One was that they brought back the most endearing qualities the two characters had last time: Thorax was the same old adorable softie/deer bug pony he's always been, happy to share in as much love as he possibly can, and Ember was once again the most tsundere character the show's ever had, and on top of that she also had a ton of hilarious and adorable cultural misunderstandings going on with the ponies (the best being her eating Twilight's dining room - literally - and destroying Derpy's poor muffin in a misguided attempt to display friendship, both of which were just the best of a ton of hilarious cultural missteps in her interactions with the ponies).
OK seriously, they could not make this deer bug pony more adorable if they tried! Though I do have to ask... how long, exactly, is his bucking neck???
The other was that these two worked out their own issues themselves, or rather, with each other! Yeah, in a bucking awesome turn from the show's usual formula of having either (1) the Mane 6, (2) Spike, (3) the CMC, or (4) Starlight Glimmer solve some kind of friendship problem, two supporting characters solved their own problems simply by talking and interacting with each other. In fact, they were both quite well suited for helping the other; Ember knew that Thorax needed simply to be taught how to be a more assertive leader and what he needed to learn to do so, while Thorax knew how to teach Ember to be more open about her feelings with others. Hell, they probably bonded quite easily since they were both leaders; they wanted Spike's help first and foremost, but frankly, it makes sense that that might be a bit much for the little guy. As much as he's gone through, he's still a baby dragon, and while his heart may be in the right place, I wouldn't say he's a leader, at least not yet. Frankly, Ember and Thorax were just better suited for teaching the other what they needed to learn, and when they finally did, they had a great dynamic together. I loved that once they realized what misunderstandings had just happened that they both started acting like the adults in the room, like everypony else was acting ridiculous (frankly, their being kept apart can't just be put on Spike considering Twilight and Starlight thought it was the best move too). Overall, loved these two here, and would honestly love to see more of them going forward.
D'awwwwww, deer bug pony just can't get comfortable!
Ember literally eating Twilight's castle is far cuter than it has any right to be...
Besides these two main elements, the rest of Ponyville (as should be the case in any good slice of life episode in this show) was pretty much a character in and of itself, including in Twilight and Starlight (although they were supporting characters, they barely contributed to the resolution at all, so really most of what they did was initiate plot direction and gags throughout the episode). For their parts, Twilight and Starlight were pretty hilarious as they haplessly tried to keep Ember and Thorax apart (though while I understood why Ember was more interested in seeing Spike than those two since they're both dragons, I was a bit confused why Thorax wanted to see Spike more - he may be closer friends with Spike than the others, but friendship isn't an issue with him and I would think he'd know he should take his issue to another leader, not Spike of all ponies or dragons). Their funniest bit was easily when Ember bluntly pointed out how similar they look and even behave, a joke which both felt like it was poking fun at the "all you (blanks) look the same" line applied in a number of racial jokes as well as a tad meta even, considering many fans have drawn parallels between Twilight and Starlight, and they are quite undeniable considering they are teacher and student after all. The background ponies had a ton of bits in the episode, possibly their most this season; Lyra and Bon Bon got into an argument that Spike helped resolve, there were cute and funny bits with Ponyville residents all over the place as part of the celebrations for Ember's arrival (I loved that they were all very receptive of both Ember and Thorax, though they were understandably terrified of some of Ember's more aggressive displays, intentional or accidental), some background ponies argued over a chair for some reason (WAY more aggressively than they needed to), and of course, poor Derpy's muffin meeting its untimely demise against a wall on account of Ember... rather than of course meeting its demise, as it should have, in Derpy's belly. And overall it was just a lot of fun seeing two characters like Ember and Thorax just a bit out of their element in a town like Ponyville, but the rest of the town still going about its business as usual; frankly, a dragon lord and a changeling pack leader are probably hardly the strangest things these ponies have seen by this point.
"You ponies all look the same."
DAT'S RACIST, EMBER!!!
All in all, like I said, this was just a good episode. It wasn't great, it wasn't bad, it was good. The lesson that Spike should have just told Ember and Thorax about each other right away, rather than simply assumed they wouldn't get along, is a VERY standard lesson (made only clever in the sense that Spike was the one who had to learn the lesson, rather than teach anything), though it did set up a delightful joke about how ponies are always just telling each other what friendship lessons they've learned (once again, another fun bit of meta humor). But as I said before, I'm perfectly OK with this episode just being good. I don't need every episode to blow my socks off, otherwise they wouldn't be special to begin with. And hell, I don't even need most episodes to be very exceptional, or at least so bad or divisive that everybody is talking about them. GOOD episodes, just solidly good, are the bread and butter of this show, and we need bread and butter for sustenance as much as we need the delightful decadence that are treats like "The Perfect Pear." The fact that this show's "good" is far more delightful than the average of most other animated shows of a similar nature is a credit to the high level of quality we've come to expect from MLP by this point. So yeah, overall, I very much enjoyed this episode for what it was, and that it didn't pretend in the slightest to be anything that it wasn't, and rather embraced being exactly what it was: a GOOD episode of MLP. That's all I've got for ya this week, everypony, until next time this is Batbrony signing off. I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*
That "I just watched a good episode of MLP" feeling...