My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Hasbro.
Episode directed by Denny Lu and Tim Stuby
We’re back with another episode of Fluttershy in the Middle as this is an episode that drops a pretty sizable bombshell on us which is that Fluttershy actually has a family! PONY SHOCK!! For such a big revelation to put in an episode, does this manage to do all it can with this latest development, or is it too little too late to be of any significance? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash (the latter decided to tag along to get a break from the Wonderbolts) having a nice lunch at her parents’ house which is still something I’ll have to get used to. Seriously, of the three major pegasi in the series (Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Scootaloo), none of them have had families that have shown up in the six seasons this show has been running. Hell, now that THAT cat is out of the bag, I guess we might as well move onto the tragic death of Applejack’s parents! Her mother doesn’t seem to have much going on design wise, but Dear old dad is basically if you took Mr. Rogers and Ned Flanders and put them in the teleporter from The Fly. Not OG Ned Flanders who was kind of a pompous ass or modern day Ned Flanders who has stopped taking Homer’s crap; the middle Ned who was a total pushover.
So why exactly are they visiting her parents for the first time in like five years (or at least the first time we’ve SEEN her visit them in that time frame)? Well the reason Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash came by is that Flutter Dad is retiring soon which I guess means this is the celebratory luncheon, but it looks like they failed to mention that her younger brother Zephyr Breeze would also be moving back in with them that day as well. This fucking guy by the way looks like he’s in his mid-thirties and has a man-bun (yuck), so he basically acts like Matthew McConaughey. Not the post McConaissance McConaughey; PRE-McConaissance. Hell, if you still don’t see the connection, there are freaking BONGOS playing whenever he talks.
Everything is starting to come together now! Whipped and useless parents means the young one runs wild and the older sibling has to grow up super-fast just to keep the little bastard alive! The spoiled little brat has now returned after flunking out of Barber School (probably due to his stupid haircut) and is reestablishing his dominance over his wimpy parents who let him walk all over them. Fluttershy is having NONE of this and neither is Rainbow Dash who has the added bonus of having the skeevy jerk hit on her CONSTANTLY. The fact that she doesn’t grab his awful bun, fly his ass over an ocean, and let him drop is a testament to the endless source of patience that she must have.
What I like right off the bat is that they don’t hold back in the slightest in portraying this guy as an unlikable leech that sucks the life and joy away from everyone around him which is not a characterization we see that often in this show. Hell, even villains can be somewhat respectable, but this guy? HELL no! He truly is a toxic individual who needs to be booted out the door and forced to work as a ditch digger or something until he gets a modicum of perspective. Sadly that’s never gonna happen because Fluttershy’s parents don’t have the backbone to do it and Fluttershy frankly shouldn’t have to clean up their mistakes or take ownership of his bullshit. That’s actually another thing that’s REALLY good about this episode so far. Fluttershy is NOT letting him walk all over her. This isn’t gonna be an episode where we have to watch her take his abuse in stride for fifteen minutes before a crisis point at the end fixes everything. Screw that! She just leaves her parents to solve this on their own! Well, sort of. She certainly leaves, but she can’t help taking some of the frustration with her as she silently vents all the way home before exploding at Rainbow Dash about what a bum her brother is.
On their way back, they JUST SO HAPPEN to run into Pinkie Pie and Applejack who find out that Zephyr Breeze is back at the house; a situation they’re all too familiar with because OF COURSE they know about her family even though no one has brought it up in six years. What, are we supposed to ASSUME this was all common knowledge that we just weren’t privy to!? I guess there’s no way around that issue, but it’s still annoying that it’s taken them six years to give us this very basic bit of information (her family couldn’t have been in the background or even in a photo at her house in ANY of the episodes?) but it’s still annoying that we’re all of sudden back filling continuity that should have been there all along.
After a rousing speech of familial responsibility (because of COURSE that’s the point of view Applejack would have), Fluttershy returns to her parents’ house to find that that it’s already been turned into a shit hole due to their dear own son’s selfish behavior. CLEARLY these two aren’t so much gonna learn a lesson as they are gonna get murdered in their sleep at some point (I don’t doubt for second he wouldn’t do that for any number of greedy reasons), so it’s best to leave them to cry themselves to sleep about what terrible parents they are while Fluttershy does the work kicking him out once and for all!
It doesn’t work out QUITE that well unfortunately because he has NO WHERE ELSE TO GO, so he ends up staying at Fluttershy’s place. That being said, she’s not the same pushover who let Discord run rampant through her house when he was staying there, so this worthless waste of space is getting a job no matter what! Of course, she PROBABLY should have figured the guy would do anything to justify NOT working, but she still gives it a shot by getting him to do odd jobs for her friends. Rarity is the first victim who simply requests that he dye some cloth for her and the end result is an absolute nightmare.
Well that certainly went about as well as expected. Who’s next in line to waste a day trying to deal with the worthless sponge? That would be Twilight who simply wants him to wash the windows (big windows mind you, but hardly a challenging job) and has Spike there to supervise. Clearly Twilight never got around to reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyearling because the dude has no trouble tricking Spike (who was very nearly KING OF THE DRAGONS just a few episodes ago) into doing the work for him.
Anyone else want to take a crack at this? Well I would hope that Applejack would give him a shot at the Apple Farm (one day there and Zephyr would come back either more considerate or missing a few teeth), but instead Rainbow Dash is gonna take him to the Wonderbolt Academy to be a janitor. As you’d expect, that doesn’t go very well only this time they don’t even bother wasting animation to let us see it.
Fluttershy gave this guy more chances than he deserved and has decided that now is the time for him to leave. Good! A night on the streets should knock at least a bit of the entitlement right out of him and he’ll be crawling back to apologize any day now! Unfortunately that’s not exactly what happens as one of Fluttershy’s animal friends informs them that Zephyr is living in the woods and has already gone full Tom Hanks in a matter of hours, so he may not be capable of crawling all the way back once he realizes that he better shape up.
Since he’s now at the breaking point (didn’t seem to take all that long), Fluttershy goes up to him (with Rainbow Dash) and gives him one more chance to get his life on track. He begrudgingly accepts and we get a musical montage of him learning to cut hair properly so that he can get back into Barber School, though his behavior in this looks closer to a junkie going cold turkey.
Well I guess everything’s all better now! All Zephyr needed was an encouraging power ballad and all his problems are over! So much so that not long afterwards (it’s actually not clear how much time has passed) the dude has graduated from Barber School! Boy isn’t that convenient! Wait, now he’s asking to move back in again!? This is how the episode ends!? I thought we got past this!!
I really do like this episode and it’s definitely one of the boldest episodes the series has ever done, but it doesn’t quite stick the landing. For about ninety percent of this, it’s damn near perfect in its depiction of someone who feeds off of others and spends all their time justifying their failures and the misery they cause. It’s really a dark turn for this show to take considering how rare it is for someone to be a straight up loser in this series (which is hard to pull off what with the whole Cutie Mark thing dictating everyone’s destiny). It works even better because of how amazingly Fluttershy portrays someone who knows what the hell their doing in this situation, even though what they have to do isn’t easy. She’s determined and strong while also clearly hurting with each decision she has to make to ensure he gets exactly what he needs. All that is phenomenal, but I just don’t get the ending. At first it starts off a bit too happy (he’s all better now!) which doesn’t feel consistent with the brutally honest tone here, but then that ending is undercut with the weird fallback he has at the end which is treated like a joke rather than a serious problem. I guess you could argue that the fact that it ends with him asking to move back in for a while indicates that things didn’t end as well as they had depicted moments ago (sort of a bait and switch) but that’s not exactly what they did here. If they wanted to go with a bittersweet ending, they would have left things a bit more ambiguous about whether or not he was going to be okay which can then bring the focus back on this being Fluttershy’s story and about how she feels about what they had just gone through. Instead, it feels like they wanted to do BOTH endings (happy ending and not so happy ending) so they tried to smoosh them together which made things confusing rather than poignant. Still, it’s another example of the show taking chances instead of resting on their laurels (*cough* season five *cough*) and hopefully they will continue to move in that direction for the second half of the season.