Episode [2.22] – “Hurricane Fluttershy”
This week, on My Little Pony…
“Fluttershy, wait! So some punks poked a little fun at you and you got stage fright, big deal. You aren’t gonna go quitting because of that, are you?”
“But I need you!”
“I’m sorry, Rainbow Dash, I just don’t have the courage right now…”
How to redeem Rainbow Dash, part two : this episode also helps.
To be fair, this isn’t really a Rainbow Dash episode, although she gets most of the screentime during the first half of the episode. But it clearly belongs to Fluttershy, as she has the actual problem to overcome. But still, this episode could easily have been yet another example of Rainbow Dash being totally unlikable this season, but thankfully she’s written with a much better head on her shoulders this time around, and along with Read It and Weep, this episode was the glimmer of hope that the character wasn’t going to remain trapped in flanderized jerkface-land forever.
We get a bit of nifty world-building here, as we learn that Cloudsdale as the weather manufacturer of Equestria needs to get its water from somewhere, and the answer they’ve come up with is really cool. Presumably they rotate between each town and city for the tornado-funneling each year to give the towns time to build their water reserves back up. Also – film footage is a thing in Equestria, or at least simplistic projector slideshows with voice-overs. It’s not terribly clear whether the projector reel is super old and something that’s been used and shown a bunch (it gives that feeling, definitely), or if it’s maybe not that old and that’s just the level of film technology pony society has reached.
As someone who’s suffered with self-esteem and confidence issues all her life, I can sympathize with Fluttershy in this episode an awful lot. The feeling of being intimidated out of taking part in an event or a performance due to absolute terror over being ridiculed for it is an awfully familiar problem to me, and it’s one that doesn’t really easily go away. Fluttershy often gets accused of her episodes basically having to teach her the same lessons over and over again, and that’s a viewpoint I sort of get a little irked with, as it’s both not true (while her episodes largely deal with her anxieties, they often deal with different specifics, and anxieties don’t just domino-effect away because you’ve dealt with one of them) and also not really applicable to how social anxiety actually works. Dealing with those issues is an ongoing process, and even when someone makes a lot of progress on improving themselves in that regard, it’s still a struggle and backsliding does happen.
I am grateful, though, that Rainbow Dash manages to show a bit of empathy when it’s clear that her friend is having real issues with her anxieties. She’s perhaps a little more understanding towards her feelings here than she has been in the past towards her because of the fact that the two went to flight camp together, and she probably saw first hand the amount of teasing and harassment Fluttershy had to put up with. Her desire to break the speed record could have easily become an obsession that would blind her to her friend’s feelings (it would certainly have been in-character for her this season), but it’s a sign of growth on her part that she’s able to keep her ambitions in check and take account of what Fluttershy is dealing with. Although admittedly, that doesn’t apply to the minor characters, and her ambitions do still get the better of her as she inadvertently gets a chunk of the group sick by putting pressure on a getting-there sick Thunderlane by suggesting he’s faking it to get out of work, and he winds up passing on the bug to seven others, the whole thing finally hitting them the day of the would-be tornado.
Rainbow Dash realizes quickly that her goal of breaking the record is now unattainable… and powers on anyways, deciding that doesn’t matter in the face of just getting the job done. I really like that she doesn’t skip a beat to reach this conclusion, as it is definitely progress for her character, who earlier in this season even might not have let go of that desire to show off in front of one of her heroes so easily.
Although speaking of said hero… the fact that Spitfire just kinda sits there rather than hopping up to help when it’s pretty clear they aren’t making it is just a little screwed up. Sure, it makes sense that she wouldn’t help them out when they were trying to break a record, that would be super unfair, but once that’s been abandoned and the super important job of supplying water to Cloudsdale is looking like it won’t be accomplished due to them being just a little short wing-power wise, you’d think that maybe she might hop up there to give them the little extra push they’d need to get it done. Sure, we’d miss out on the payoff to the episode if that was how it ended, so obviously it couldn’t go that way, but as it stands it makes Spitfire out to be kind of a massive jerk. Not for the last time, either.
Fluttershy got to live her dream of being a tree, but perhaps not quite the way she was hoping for when she declared it back in Over A Barrel (though for the life of me I can’t imagine what she was hoping for anyway). Roll credits and we’re done. Oh, those were the opening credits. Good, because we’ve got a pretty good episode here!
I’ve always been a fan of the way everypony in Equestria has a profession and lives it fully (I mean, it’s tattooed to your butt and makes you who you are after all). Pegasi are a bit interesting in that their professions all generally involve the weather, or at least as pegasi they are expected to perform weather duties from time to time. So, being able to “rally the troops” toward a common weather-related goal is generally not a difficult task: does it have wings? Yes? Good, it’s qualified and pre-wired for success. Also, Rainbow Dash makes a good business pony.
This makes Fluttershy a true exception: her profession has her doing nothing with the weather, and her personality makes her, um, mis-wired for success. More on this for the remainder of the episode.
Wing-ups, wing-lifts, and other wing-related exercises are always amusingly odd to see at first: it looks normal until you notice that there are extra appendages involved, then there’s a screwy moment as your brain bends a bit to figure out what’s going on, followed by a brief moment of clarity and realization that is unfortunately eclipsed with a feeling of “derp, I just spent all that time trying to figure that one out and didn’t pay attention to what was actually going on!” In any case, they illustrate another aspect of the show I’ve always been a fan of: management of physiology that is not shared by everyone else. Applejack, for example, would have absolutely no idea what it feels like to do a wing-up (even though she could probably do plenty of them if she had wings), and Rainbow Dash would have absolutely no idea what it feels like to be magically dragged along by the horn (even though she would probably sleep through it if she had a horn). Odd tangent, but then that’s what I’m here for.
Fluttershy describes the “tornado thing” as a performance: an assessment I agree with… though for a reason different from hers, which was so she could tie it to her personal phobias. The “tornado thing” exists to fulfill a very important purpose that impacts the lives of many a pony, but either due to Rainbow Dash or other non-Rainbow causes, it now seems very much sensationalized and competitive. This can certainly increase morale and encourage ponies to do their best, especially if their competitive drive is stronger than their desire to do work *coughDASHIEcough*, but part of me wonders if over time that mentality would make the activity lose its meaning. That is to say, will future generations of pegasi view it as a necessity that can be made more fun by thinking of it as a competitive performance, or as just a performance that has the side effect of accomplishing some goal that nopony really cares much about?
Poor Fluttershy, though: she has to struggle against so many inner demons. We’ve seen before that she is able to fly quite well when the chips are down, so it’s not that she’s physically incapable of strong flight but rather that her emotional troubles have a tendency to go right to her wings (which we’ve also seen before). I’m glad Rainbow Dash caught herself when she started shouting at Fluttershy to just “suck it up,” as that’s decidedly not how one encourages another to battle inner demons. Though one could say it’s appropriate in this situation, since the whole point of the episode is to create a tornado over a lake and SUCK IT UP. See what I did there? Booyah. Er, ahem. That Fluttershy is timid and shy is absolutely nothing new, but in this episode we catch a glimpse of how deep and debilitating her fears are. Her naked sobbing after running away from the flight track is one of the most emotionally wrenching scenes to date, both in terms of where we are in these Deconstructions and in terms of the entire series as of the time of this writing (halfway through Season 5… though S5E12 does come within striking distance). I still feel my chest getting tight watching that part of the episode.
Speaking of adorable, Fluttershy makes for the most adorable training montage in the history of training montages. I think my favorite is the tug-of-war with the butterflies, though blowing by the dandelions is a close second. Her return to the track so full of confidence is such a heartwarming sight; shame that didn’t translate into a great score on the anemometer. On the bright side, her measurement of 2.3 makes for a relative improvement of nearly 500%… that’s gotta count for something, right?
Also, Spike shows he’s still perfectly capable of being a butt. At least he gets punched in the face a few times.
Anyway, I’m glad Rainbow Dash still understood the importance of the tornado over the performance and competition when it became clear they wouldn’t be breaking any records. As rickety as her whole Element of Loyalty thing can be at times (okay, many times), I think she’s showing her loyalty pretty well here. That was a pretty great scene, and one that really showed how never giving up can bring you to success. No fame and fortune was won that day, but the accomplishment of primary objectives (get that water up to Cloudsdale!) and boldly confronting one’s fears sounds like a pretty successful day to me.
I wonder if a previous draft of the script had the town pulling water out of a local lake rather than reservoir, and some astute reviewer noted that Fluttershy would have warned that sucking up all the water out of a lake is going to wreak havoc on the ecosystems there. Think of the fish! Oh won’t somepony think of the fish! Very astute attention to detail, nonetheless.
Speaking of astute: astute readers of this blog may notice that my avatar (at least, the one being used at the time of this writing anyway) came from this episode, with a few tweaks. It’s a blink-and-you-missed-it moment that I’ll leave for you to find if you happened to blink and miss it.
I love this episode: yes, a large part of this is due to Fluttershy, but an equally large part is due to the characters being written quite well. The extreme emotional distress that Fluttershy is under really shows without coming off as contrived or overdone, and as Tessa mentioned Rainbow Dash really steps up her game and actually does a decent job of showing some empathy toward her oldest friend. Previously I had held off at declaring Luna Eclipsed as my favorite episode of Season 2, and I’m glad I did because I think Hurricane Fluttershy, er, eclipses it. Whereas Luna Eclipsed was a lot of fun and a little touching, this episode was fun and very touching, and one that really stands out among the rest.
“I did tell you to never give up… and to believe in yourself.” That quote, and this episode in general, is perfectly embodied in this amazing (and amazingly chill) song: Believe by Respin. This is truly a hidden gem buried among the tens of thousands of other brony songs, and it’s one of my absolute favorites. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen, and remember to never give up.
I do very much love that character development sticks (usually) in this series. Dash is a little more sensitive to the ponies she’s ordering around, Fluttershy is a little more assertive in saying “no” when pressured, Twilight gets a little (tiny tiny) less obsessive. Spitfire remains a butt, though. Maybe someday the Thunderbolts will get an episode and become less useless.
So. Pegasi control Equestria’s weather by pulling water from the ground up to Cloudsdale. Are there clouds outside Equestria? Does the water cycle work when Pegasi aren’t around? Why don’t the Unicorns contribute additional
horsepower hornpower to the water lift? It seems like a great opportunity for teamwork. Fillydelphia managed 910 wingpower with a significantly greater population – I wonder if they just had a lower turnout as a percentage of their total Pegasi. Are there migrant ponies who go to towns specifically to work this event? It seems important enough to get all hooves on deck.
I have so many many many questions! This is great.
The training montage is fantastic. Fluttershy spends a couple days significantly multiplying her wingpower by recruiting her support group for help. She really has the best support group. All of her animal friends are great, from Angel to the squirrel to the mouse to the ferret to the badge and especially:
She can fly. She can’t fly as fast as Rainbow Dash, but she’s shown that she can almost keep up when the chips are down. The thing holding her back isn’t her wings, it’s her confidence. Her friends understand that, and specifically help her to work with the issue and boost her confidence to the point that she can not only join the tornado, but redouble her best wingpower number. There’s an old saying that a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane halfway around the world. Fluttershy can fly generate marginally more force than four butterflies combined, but it’s her effort that pushes the Pegasus tornado over the edge into success.
I’m pretty sure Fluttershy is my new favorite pony. Still love Pinkie Pie, but Fluttershy’s shyness and self-confidence self-improvement hits a chord.
In conclusion: Who is this guy?
‹ Episode [2.21] – “Dragon Quest” Episode [2.23] – “Ponyville Confidential” ›
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Ah, Bulk Biceps. He started as a minor visual gag (possibly a shout out to John Kricfalusi), but like so many other things that started that way he kind of stuck and eventually got more screen time. We’ll be seeing him around. Coincidentally with him being there Fluttershy wasn’t the weakest flier of the group.
Also I’d put S5E5 as another major contender for biggest tearjerker of the series… but we’ll get there.
Aside from a couple quibbles – no acknowledgement of Spitfire’s lack of support, so many world-building questions – this is a really wonderful episode with so much to enjoy. The constant, relatable twists and turns of Fluttershy’s emotional struggle, the painted on plague, the quiet spread of the real plague, the vintage instructional film, the visual of the water rising, the tests of wing power, the training montage, Bulk Biceps. Loved so much of this.
Two big things I hugely dig: 1) that not only is Rainbow Dash becoming a better person, but she’s shown as still STRUGGLING with becoming a better person. As someone who’s had a past with being a massively inconsiderate jerk and even a bully, it’s really great and inspiring to see her working to catch herself and keep her more negative tendencies in check, forcing herself to refocus when situations don’t go her way. Like many things, that’s a constant personal struggle that never ends.
2) How frequently we see Muffins (yep, I’m going with that now) being involved and a part of the team without any of her background appearances here showing her screwing up or getting on other peoples’ nerves. She’s a fully capable and competent member of this group, flying and celebrating alongside everyone else. It’s great to see that level of inclusion for her, and I hope future appearances, even background ones, build on this.