Spike is an interesting character that a lot of folks overlook because it takes him quite a while to get interesting. His circumstances alone are rather complicated.
While all the other characters are, of course, capable of getting carried away and straying from their moral centers, Spike is young. He makes mistakes the Mane Six wouldn’t. In Dragon Quest, for example, he specifically sets out to discover more more about his people because of his passionate need to find out more about himself. This is a stage of development that the Mane Six already underwent. (Pinkie left home to become a party pony; Applejack left home to find herself, only to come right back again.) Spike is still young and uncertain.
Yet, he still goes about his path of self-discovery in a far more mature way than the Cutie Mark Crusaders do. His age itself is a dichotomy. Spike is undeniably a kid, and because of that, he is, in a lot of ways, too young to be taken seriously by the Mane Six. At the same time, however, he bears responsibilities that adults would and should ordinarily bear.
Spike rocks it. He functions damn well as an adult in the real world, but all of this places him at an unfortunate point in his life, where he doesn’t actually connect with other children as peers, but isn’t fully accepted as an adult either.
The thing about Spike is that he has not really had much opportunity to explore outside the borders of his known emotional world, and yet, he is already exactly where he belongs. When given the opportunity, he looks for himself in the wrong places (Dragon Quest; Equestria Games). He is at once, capable of the most in-your-face, over-the-top selfish acts in the show (Just for Sidekicks, Owl’s Well that Ends Well), and yet, he is still the most unshakable in his loyalties, and true in his devotion. While doing the right thing is always a theme of the show, Spike is the only character who consistently speaks openly of honor and duty. It’s part of who he is. It’s his source of pride, even though it has a very real downside: having to constantly play Humdrum to the Mane Six’s Power Ponies.
Why analyze Spike in particular, when I ordinarily go for the moral-lesson-type stuff in this here column? Because he deserves it, and because thereis rather a lot to be learned from him.
It’s very easy to miss because he is, by his very nature, a supporting character, not just in terms of the show’s narrative, but in terms of his role in the pack. Spike finds his life’s meaning in the service of others, which automatically puts him at a strange intersection. His faults are more petty than the others’, not simply because of his age, but because of this position. Anything he does for himself, he sneaks in on his downtime. Can we really fault him for getting carried away every now and again after all the nonsense he puts up with?
Ever since they shifted his role in the show from sidekick to straight man, his frustrations have become more and more relatable. Season Four gave him the opportunity to really blossom. We finally started to see things from his point of view! Something as simple as the “I made nachos” gag, or Rarity’s proclamation that Spike wouldn’t know what it’s like to have an unrequited crush – it all puts the viewer in his shoes, and allows us to laugh with him instead of at him. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing more of this in Season Five.
Yes, he is a spazz, and at times, can be annoying, but Spike, when allowed to shine, really is a wonderful character. Unlike the others, he is, emotionally speaking, always on the precipice, without ever quite reaching the goal. Even when he achieves something great, he either masks his insecurity with false bravado, or flat out refuses to recognize his own achievements (Equestria Games).
That mistake is something a lot of us in the grown-up world can relate to, and learn from. The beauty of Spike is that he’s in a pretty good place, and is surrounded by wonderful ponies, but inside of his own head, he’s still got a long way to go.
Don’t we all?
You can also follow Help! My Heart is Full of Pony! on FIMFiction. http://www.fimfiction.net/user/Sprocket+Doggingsworth