Once again this review will contain spoilers. Those of you who haven't seen this episode yet, you have been warned.
So the episode starts with Rainbow Dash flying over Ponyville, sending out fliers for all the pegasi in town, informing them of a meeting later on that day. At the meeting in question, we see Fluttershy outside trying to avoid having to go in, but Rainbow spots her and drags her in and leading into the episode's title screen.
When the episode begins proper we find that the meeting has started and Rainbow explains to everyone there how the city of Cloudsdale requires water to make rainclouds for the upcoming rainy season. This requires pegasi to work in groups to form a hurricane to get the water up. This year it seems that Ponyville's water reservoir has been chosen to be the water source needed. On top of that, Rainbow declares that she intends to do this and break the previous record of "wingpower" made when creating such a hurricane.
Later on, the pegasi of Ponyville are assembled to prepare for the upcoming hurricane they must create. Fluttershy once more tries to avoid this but yet again, Rainbow sees through it. Fluttrshy then explains about her fear of having to perform major events in front of others, especially in light of her past of never having been a good flier compared to the other pegasi. Rainbow, despite her efforts to convince Fluttershy to come, eventually starts to leave, guilting Fluttershy into participating. Twilight and Spike also attend to help measure their wingpower as they fly. Rainbow, as expected, sets quite a standard when her power is measured and she informs everyone that they must improve their average flying ability in order to break this record. All the pegasi practise their flying and unfortunately for Fluttershy, she simply cannot compare to the others, earning her much mockery.
This whole situation causes her to run off in tears. Whilst off on her own, her animals friend come by to remind her of all the great things she's done for them over the years, which prompts her to gain enough confidence to try and train harder so that she can fly better and participate in the hurricane. What follows is a montage of Fluttershy training as hard as she can to improve herself. Later on, as Twilight and Rainbow continue to measure the ability of the other pegasi, Fluttershy turns up to help with the event, much to everyone's shock. What's even more shocking, especially to Fluttershy, is that her training has barely improved her flying whatsoever. Rainbow tries to convince her that it's still an improvement, but Fluttershy's had it at this point and she runs off once more.
So the day of the hurricane arrives but much to Rainbow's horror, it seems that there's a bug going around that's put a number of pegasi out of action. Because of this, there may not be enough power in the remaining pegasi to even lift the water out of the reservoir. Rainbow endeavours to get the water out in spite of this and the pegasi get to work. As the hurricane starts to form, Fluttershy turns up to offer "moral support" but soon sees the situation the others are in. By the fault of one of the pegasi, the hurricane soon collapses and the water ends up back in the reservoir. Despite warnings from Twilight that trying again could end with someone getting hurt, Rainbow rallies the other pegasi to attempt a second hurricane. Despite their best efforts, the pegasi simply aren't producing enough power to get the water out. Twilight urges Flutterhsy that she's needed to help, but she's still lacks the confidence to try. Twilight then tells her to simply "dot it for yourself", which gives her enough confidence to try and help. Despite initially failing to fly very hard, the memories of her past failures prompts her to fly faster than everyone else there, causing the hurricaen to be strong enough to get the water up to Cloudsdale.
And so the episode ends with everyone cheering Fluttershy for her accomplishment, as well as a narration by Fluttershy herself about today's moral, which I'll get to later.
So, how does this episode hold up?
Well, in terms of it's story, let me say right now that I am once again disappointed by this series. Now don't get me wrong, there isn't anything in this episode that I would call outright "bad". It's just that I once again come across an episode that show that this series is beginning to struggle when it comes to coming up with new ideas for it's episodes. The story in this episode is, at it's most basic, one of Fluttershy overcoming some sort of personal failing, like her self-consciousness. In other words, we have pretty much the same basic plot as every single major Fluttershy episode we've had so far. In fact, if you were to change some of the words in the script for this one, you'd pretty much have the same episode as "Putting your hoof down", which we only had about two weeks ago.
Those of you who've read my reviews for a while may remember me making a similar argument back in "Super easy cider squeezy 6000". There, I said how it seemed like most of the episodes centring around Applejack were her trying to prove her worth to those around her. Her, at this point in season two, it seems like Fluttershy's character is suffering from the same problem. If you look at most of her major episode, both in this season and the previous one, it really does look like the writers are struggling to come up with anything for her to do other than try to get over some big fear or inability to function around others. And so, like with Applejack's episodes, this story has a taint of predictability about it that I cannot help but notice when I watch it, which spoils whatever enjoyment I might be able to get out of it.
And I'm sorry to report but this would also apply to the overall plot even if it had nothing to do with Fluttershy specifically. It's a story I've seen a million times before in 80's and 90's sports movies. A team has to do their best to try and break a record or something but one player has to work even harder so as to not let everybody down. In fact during the scene where Fluttershy is training, I had to literally hold myself back from singing "Eye of the Tiger", that's how much it reminded me of other stories. So in addition to being a cliche Fluttershy episode, it has the negative point of just being a plain old cliche story period. Plus, there were just some story points here and there that, when you really think about it, make no sense. For example, if this rainy season is a regular thing that the pegasi do, and Cloudsdale is responsible for all of Equestria's weather, then why on Earth do they have to use the water from Ponyville's reservoir? Isn't this the kind of thing that Cloudsdale should have itself? Like some separate water stored somewhere for just this very event. Little points like that tend to build up for me and spoil my enjoyment of the story.
In addition to this, there was one underlying issue I had with the overall plot that kept glaring at me in the face for every second I watched the episode. And that issue was, "why doesn't Fluttershy simply refuse to participate in this event"? I mean think about it. The episode goes out of it's way to tell us how much Fluttershy is a self-conscious character and is terrified of being part of large events with other people. Why doesn't she simply sit it out and let the other pegasi do the work? I mean there is literally nothing stopping her from doing this. And don't go ahead and tell me that she couldn't because she's "too shy" or "because she didn't want to let Rainbow down". We have a whole episode that developed Fluttershy as a more assertive character, and even last week we have her flat-out refuse to participate in something her closest friends were doing because of her fear of dragons. Have the show's writers just forgotten this? Where's that new assertiveness she's supposed to have? I mean it's not like they tell us that all the pegasi will be needed or else it will fail. Until the third-act crisis, there is no reason Fluttershy was even needed for this, the only reason Rainbow Dash kept pestering her about it was just so she could break a record. The hurricane still would have happened even without her, yet the episode seems to be under the impression that saying "no" somehow isn't an option, without even giving an explanation as to why. I mean not once has she ever been involved in any weather-related events, even when all other pegasi have been involved. And this is a big problem for me, because it means that an enormous amount of pressure is being put on her for seemingly no reason.
However, in the interests of fairness, I will say right now that there are a few good elements to this story that manage to uplift it for me. The major point here for me is that, for the first time, we see Fluttershy being involved in something we've seen every other pegasus character do, control the weather. It's been established in the past that their kind is responsible for all the weather in Equestria and yet despite that we've never seen Fluttershy do anything remotely related to it. It's almost as if the writers have only just remembered that she's a pegasus and this is what pegasi are supposed to do. Seeing her interact with others of her kind was a genuinely good part of the episode for me. After all, we've never seen her interact with other pegasi before with the exception of Rainbow Dash, and with Cloudsdale being her home town that always seemed odd to me. So I will at least give credit for the episode addressing an aspect of the character that I've always wanted to see.
But, to this episode's credit, there was one element I really liked about it, and that was Fluttershy herself. I know I kind of bashed her earlier with my sentiments against her repeated stories, but in all honesty, I really felt for her in this episode. She was put in an incredibly difficult position here. Having to work hard for the purposes of not letting down what could be her closest friend. And that's a very relatable situation to be in, one that may people can identify with. Also, and this is purely from a personal standpoint, I couldn't help but understand what she was going through in this episode. There was a time for me many years ago when I was essentially put into the spotlight in order to represent other people and "do my part" for the group. I know from first-hand experience not only how difficult it can be to live up to those kinds of expectation, but also how much it hurts when others make fun of you when you don't meet those expectations. When I watched Flutterhsy being mocked, both in flashback and in other scenes of the episode, I could not help but seem myself in her position. The moment where she turned to the camera and cried inn front of Rainbow, telling her she couldn't be a part of this, I have no hesitation in telling you that moment damn-near made my heart break. THAT'S how good she was in this episode. And for that reason alone, I'm willing to go easy on her character here. I really identified with her this week and her character really endeared herself to me more than usual, which, given that this is Fluttershy we're taking about, is a hell of a lot of endearment.
The other characters, as usual, play to their various strengths and weaknesses. They all do well in doing exactly what the story requires of them and there weren't any moments when I thought the characters were bad or acting inappropriately. However, this does not apply to all of the characters. Rainbow Dash, in this episode, made me unsure of what to think of her this time around. I mean, on the one hand, this record-breaking element of the plot fits in with her character perfectly. She's proven time and again to be an incredibly competitive person, who takes up challenges and does her best to win at them or surpass what others have done. So on that level, this episode works. However, there was one aspect of Rainbow's drive here that bothered me, and that was Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash, perhaps more than nay of the other characters, knows what Fluttershy is like, what her various strengths and failings are, as this episode was very kind to remind us. And yet despite that, here she is trying to get all of the pegasi, including Fluttershy, to engage in massive and difficult feats of flying. Rainbow knows full-well that Fluttershy has never been as good a flier as her, or even most other pegasi for that matter. So her asking for this kind of effort or ability on Fluttershy's part just comes across as cruel to me. However, I will go easy on her here as she did seem legitimately concerned for Fluttershy's welfare at a number of times in the episode and tried to console her. That shows she cared at least, but in the face of kind of pressure she put on her, I'm not sure if it's enough to completely absolve her.
No song this week so I won't be talking about one.
Humour now and in this episode we have a fair few funny moments to uplift the issues I had with the basic plot. For the most part, episodes centring on Fluttershy tend to draw most of their humour from her interactions with other character or by her fear of the things around her, which have always had that "things you laugh at but you know you shouldn't" element to them. And this episode is no different. However, in spite of that there were some genuinely decent jokes thrown in here that managed to break away from that kind of humour. Jokes like Fluttershy's training moment around her animal friends sticks out in my mind for example. Twilight's attempt to explain what her device does and everyone else having to speak to Spike for a proper explanation was absolutely priceless, by far the biggest laugh of the episode for me.
However, not all of the humour really worked. In fact there was one brief moment of the episode that honestly had me scratching my head over whether or not it was supposed to be funny. It occurs during the scene when Twilight is measuring the speed of the pegasi. Immediately after Rainbow Dash sets her time, the crowd cheers for her accomplishment. Once the cheering ends however we get a brief appearance by a character in the background who made frequent appearances here and there in this episode. A large muscle-bound pony who just comes in from off-screen and cheers after everyone else. I had no idea this was coming and after the scene was over I was looking at the screen with a look of utter confusion on my face. What on Earth was that supposed to be? Was it intended to be funny? If so it failed miserably and I have no idea what prompted the show's creators to put this small moment in the episode.
Time to talk about the moral of the episode now and this week it seems to be that essentially "every little helps", that even a small contribution can lead to a greater success in the long run. I'm not quite sure of what to make of this lesson this week. I mean it's not a bad moral by any stretch of the imagination as there's a lot of truth behind it. But on the other hand it seems rather bland and basic and pretty much a typical lesson for a story like this. So while I have no real issue with the lesson this time around, there's nothing bad about it.
Overall I'd say that this episode is fairly disappointing. While Fluttershy does well as usual and there were a few funny moments here and there it didn't really do anything to make the episode one that I'd want to see more than once. To me, this story's major downside was it's predictability. I knew how things were going to turn out. I knew what the moral would be and how the issues would be resolved. Because I've seen them be resolved that way in past episodes of the show. So while I can't say that it's an episode people should avoid, there isn't really anything here that would make me want to recommend it to people. However, Fluttershy herself really helped to elevate this episode in my eyes, giving a real heart and emotion to the story that kept me from simply turning my TV off whilst watching it. If, after reading this you feel that you want to see it, more power to you. It's just not for me.
Join me next week when the Cutie Mark Crusaders learn what happens when you stick your nose where it doesn't belong in episode twenty-three of season two, "Ponyville Confidential".