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 Unbreakable Fluttershy who hasn’t had a starring role since last season’s Viva Las Pegasus and has barely even shown up since this season began. Fluttershy isn’t the easiest character to write for considering how much her defining characteristics can sometimes limit what she’s capable of doing, but in recent seasons they’ve managed to put out a few gems with her that complement what makes her unique in the cast. Can they continue that going into season 7, or will this be remembered as a half-hearted piece of season filler? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Angel Bunny (Fluttershy’s own Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne) doing some parkour in Fluttershy’s house (okay…) before it all ends the same way every parkour run inevitably does so; with the runner getting GREVIOUSLY (and hilariously) injured. Oh I’m sure he’s fine! He’ll be back to being an abusive jerk-wad in no time!
Still, Angel Bunny puts on quite a show regarding their injury so Fluttershy takes him to the Ponyville vet for treatment. Wait, I thought SHE was the Ponyville vet. You’re telling me there was an ACTUAL animal doctor in Ponyville and we’ve never even seen them up to this point!? Wait, let me take another look.
Okay, so she WAS in another episode all the way back in season two (Secret of My Excess), though as far as I can tell it wasn’t until this episode that they actually gave her a name (Dr. Fauna) and more than two minutes of screen time. Said screen time by the way is what gets the ACTUAL plot rolling as it turns out that the veterinary clinic is filled to capacity with animals. Not necessarily SICK animals, but I guess ones who are looking for a free bed or something. DAMN YOU SOCIALIZED MEDICINE! What I find really distracting though is that they have a sick giraffe here which you would think would be evolutionarily close enough to ponies to NOT be treated as an animal!
Whatever the reason for the increase in volume (Fluttershy says she’s been recommending the place to her animal friends, but has she only recently started doing that?), they need to come up with a way to coax these animals out of here so that there’ll be enough room for the ones who are actually sick. Now normally you’d think that Fluttershy would just invite them to live in her backyard, but that’s OLD Fluttershy thinking right there! This is NEW BOLD Fluttershy we’re talking about, so her plan is a bit more ambitious as she decides to build a full scale animal sanctuary for these and future animals to stay whenever they need to. By the way, I’m going through this a lot faster than the episode itself is as they’re taking their sweet time going setting up the plot and doing animal related sight gags. By the time Fluttershy finishes explaining her idea to the Mane6 (not a very critical scene mind you as they’re barely in the episode after that), we’re pretty much halfway through the episode and are just setting up what the primary issue that Fluttershy will need to overcome in regards to her animal sanctuary. Rarity, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie, know some ponies who could help Fluttershy bring this project together; namely Wrangler (expert in animal enclosures), Hard Hat (a construction worker), and Dandy Grandeur (a stylist). The problem comes in when the three of them show up and… let’s just say Fluttershy is not what you’d call an experienced project manager.
Now to be clear, she DOES know what she’s looking for and certainly does her best to at least let them know what NOT to do, but Fluttershy’s euphemistic language coupled with a lack of experience, blueprints, budget, what have you, leaves these three without much to go on and they start to do what THEY feel is best even if it’s not what would work for a proper animal sanctuary. I actually REALLY like this as the idea isn’t that one side is all in the wrong or that anyone is being malicious; it’s just a story about miscommunication and how even the best of intentions don’t always work out. Now that said, I will say that the three worker ponies here are the TINIEST bit more in the wrong as they make decisions that go against the expressed wishes of their client. They should have either asked for more clarification or simply left the project before investing resources into what I assume they thought was going to be a doomed project (a FyreFly Festival if you will).
Naturally things go sideways rather quickly as the ponies are VERY efficient at their job (the construction ponies build an entire frame for the place seemingly overnight) which would be a good thing if everyone was on the same page, but it also means that a whole bunch of effort went to waste. The building is too small for some of the larger animals, Fluttershy doesn’t like the curtains that Dandy is pushing on her (why are they even discussing interior design this early into the process?), and Wrangler has brought a whole bunch of cages for the animals. I mean… that’s what you WOULD need in a real wildlife sanctuary (there isn’t a single mention of how she plans to separate predators from prey), but since we’re in a magic world where giant grizzlies act like Yogi Bear, I guess that’s not something they’ll need to concern themselves with. Either way, Fluttershy is not happy with these results and sacks their sorry butts; presumably without pay!
Then… something weird happens. Now as I said earlier, this episode was taking its sweet time setting up the story and working through the conflict that honestly wasn’t all that complex in the first place. Because of that, I guess they had to rush what happens next, so the EXACT MOMENT the three ponies walk off the project, Dr. Fauna walks right into the scene along with her Noah’s Ark of animals expecting to see the completed animal sanctuary. I’m sorry… WHAT!? WHY!? How could Dr. Fauna POSSIBLY think the project would be done by now, and why would she drag ALL these animals to it when she hasn’t even confirmed if that’s the case!? I mean, I know they don’t have e-mail or text messaging, but STILL! Not only that, the project SEEMED be going along fine until this very moment even if what they were building wasn’t right, so this scene wouldn’t have worked even if everything was going according to plan! She would have dragged a whole bunch of animals onto an active work site for no reason! So what happens next? What do you THINK happens next!? The animals stampede and tear the place to shred with reckless abandon for seemingly no reason. The stupid bear, despite all his rage, locks himself up like a rat in a cage!! WHY!? WHY WOULD HIS FIRST INSTINCT BE TO RUN INTO A VERY SMALL ENCLOSURE AND LOCK HIMSELF IN IT!?
It’s not even like this scene was all that necessary considering the next scene is Fluttershy at the vet’s place apologizing for the lack of a suitable animal sanctuary! If they had cut to that right after the three ponies were fired, not only would it have been a smoother transition into the third act, but they could have also fudged a bit of the timeline so that it’s not IMMEDIATELY clear this takes place that very night. The way it is now, it’s certain that it takes place right after the building massacre (some of the animals are getting bandaged up from it) and that only reinforces the strange notion that Fluttershy should be done by now. Fine, we won’t go over who owns the land she’s building on, getting financial support for the project, or any of that stuff, but you have to give us SOMETHING to keep this story grounded, and building a fully functional animal sanctuary in… what, an evening? Three days? Yeah, even with MAGIC that wouldn’t have worked!
So how do we fix all this? Well Fluttershy, in full on New Fluttershy mode, gathers the Mane6 to her house once again and work on Animal Sanctuary Mark II; this time on her terms… which was the case before, but I guess with people who aren’t gonna misunderstand her. Case in point, Big Daddy McColt, all the way back from The Hooffields and McColts, is called in to lead the project and has a much easier time understanding what Fluttershy is after which is basically an already existing field with a treehouse and some bird nests added to it. Okay… good thing they called in an expert I guess? And so the episode ends with the fruits of Fluttershy’s labor being realized and her dreams come to life! That and Dr. Fauna won’t have to deal with that lazy jerk of a bear anymore!
I wish that I liked this episode more than I did because it does the ONE THING that a lot of other episodes fail to do, and that’s being aware of a character’s development of the last six seasons. Fluttershy’s behavior in this episode is perfectly aligned with all the lessons she’s learned up to this point which means that the writers have a chance to do something DIFFERENT with her character instead of rehashing old plots. This isn’t another instance of Fluttershy not having the courage to speak up and the problem she faces is a very real one that can happen whether or not she has confidence problems. In fact, her growth as a character directly affects the resolution to the conflict as she doesn’t hesitate to fire the three worker ponies when she determines they aren’t fit for the job; further imparting to the audience that the lessons being taught in this show aren’t merely superficial and isolated to individual episodes, but are true paths to positive growth and change. All that is great, but unfortunately that’s really the only part I was particularly impressed with here. The plot is paced very oddly, there are moments that make absolutely no sense, and it’s not particularly funny or entertaining to watch the situation play out. Also, and maybe this is a bit unfair to criticize, but I still don’t think Fluttershy had a competent plan in place. The ponies weren’t acting maliciously (okay, MAYBE Dandy was a bit smug), rather they were just confused about what she wanted based on how Fluttershy was communicating her vision. The ending of the episode seems to frame this as not an issue considering how easily Big Daddy McColt was able to suss out Fluttershy’s vision, and there’s certainly a point to be made about having the RIGHT people to communicate with instead of just the best people for the job, but it feels like the show brought it up in the first place yet didn’t want to come back to it; lest it ever so slightly put some fault on Fluttershy who’s supposed to have the happy ending here. I want more episodes like this going forward that recognize what has already happened in the show, but hopefully those episodes will have a tighter script and some better jokes.