MLP:FiM Episode Reviews: Character and Story Analysis by Half the Battle

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Episode 163: "A Health of Information"

Aired 9/23/2017, written by Sammie Crowley & Whitney Wetta (their second episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Zecora becomes sick while gathering special moss for Fluttershy.
  • Act 1: A doctor diagnoses Zecora with swamp fever, incurable but for a legendary doctor Zecora mentions hearing of. Fluttershy goes to Twilight Sparkle's castle and spends all night doing research. She connects the legend to Mage Meadowbrook and leaves with Twilight the next morning, resisting Twilight's reminder that Fluttershy needs to sleep.
  • Act 2: With Zecora getting sicker and a tired Fluttershy less able to function, the two ponies locate Meadowbrook's ancestral home and find a caretaker who presents her journal. It records her cure for swamp fever, derived from the nectar of flash bees, but doesn't indicate how she got past the aggressive bees to get to the nectar. Fluttershy now has the disease.
  • Act 3: Fluttershy is stung trying to retrieve the nectar and wakes up after having slept for three days. She determines that one of Meadowbrook's masks matches the queen bee's coloration. The masks pacifies the bees, allowing her to get the nectar and cure herself and Zecora.


Character: We get an excellent handling of Zecora and Fluttershy, who each tend to have the same roles in most of their episodes; they each get a refreshing departure from the usual this week. Zecora's always been the healer, the sage, the equine with the solution. We've rarely if ever seen any flaws or weaknesses in her. She's sweet here, too, but her falling sick and needing a cure from the ponies helps balance her character.

Fluttershy exhibits awesome determination throughout the episode, driven by (what else?) compassion for her friend. Whereas she was once prone to paralysis and hesitation, any fear or anxiety we see propels her forward and emboldens her to find a cure no matter the cost. Like Zecora, healing is in her constitution, and it's fascinating to see her use a whole array of talents and fearlessly overcome all sorts of hardships, and with such a sense of urgency. Even after she's stung, she doesn't shrink away but pushes toward her goal until the moment she loses consciousness. I have a special fear of stinging insects, so her courage puts me to shame here. Note that this sort of exertion isn't unusual for these ponies. We saw Pinkie work herself to exhaustion to rescue Rainbow Dash just a couple episodes back, and Cadance did the same to guard the Crystal Empire from King Sombra when there was no other option.

Twilight Sparkle is there to witness it all, and she's had her own resolve featured in previous episodes. But Twilight's always had a sense of balance about this, and as admirable as Fluttershy's attempt to be a juggernaut is, Twilight's experience is too valuable to just dismiss. As it turns out, there was plenty of time to cure Zecora, and from the time they left the castle, all Fluttershy's efforts were of little benefit until she'd slept.

The Meadowbrook ponies appear to be based on Louisiana Creole culture, with a dash of medieval "plague doctor" thrown in. I like the glimpse of yet another facet of Equestrian society, although some of the flashback's background ponies are a tad too familiar. Mage Meadowbrook gives us a legendary pony to match up with Fluttershy and was the first of the five to be mentioned. Twilight described Meadowbrook as an Eastern unicorn known for eight magical items, although Starlight Glimmer falsely claimed her staff was a ninth such item.


Lesson: Fluttershy demonstrates an almost suicidal degree of unflagging persistence that's simultaneously a good and bad example. That makes this the sort of episode that's fun to debate among fans and rewarding for parents to discuss with their kids. Fluttershy puts the lesson concisely: "If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of anypony else." The same concept applies to your own personal productivity: Too little rest leads to fatigue that slows you down while you're trying to work, and gritting your teeth and continuing on is like trying to slice with a dull blade. And yet, for the sake of a friend, especially in times of danger, the situation may call for self-sacrifice. There's a reason Army Ranger candidates train for twenty hours a day, ration their food, and exert themselves to their absolute physical limits. In a worst-case scenario, a worthy goal may require literally pressing on to the point of death. But in just about any situation we face in day-to-day life, you can and should manage your time for a balance of work and rest that gives you the physical and mental resources to provide the help your friends need.

Resonance: This is a showcase of pegasus awesomeness. But if we're not too busy admiring Fluttershy, there's a lot of fun to be had in this episode. My favorite laughs come from Fluttershy's rhyming, the doctor's questionable bedside manner, Fluttershy's retracting of a compliment, Twilight's face upon waking up, Fluttershy bumping into Twilight and prematurely giving up on using the door, Meadowbrook's first entries in her journal and Twilight's interest in those, Fluttershy's line delivery when she says she's "pretty good with animals," and Cattail's shuddering at the "unspeakable" things he and Twilight do to distract the flash bees. It's also really sweet to see Twilight and Spike's baking contest, including her appreciation of his admission that he couldn't resist eating all her food. Meadowbrook's almost wordless flashback is also touching.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: We have characters expertly handled, a new Equestrian subculture, a fun problem-solving adventure, and a thought-provoking lesson fairly and even tantalizingly presented, all ingredients for a superb episode. I might have let Zecora get just a little farther along in the transformation process to justify Fluttershy's hurry, but her potential fate is already pretty dire as it is. I'm going to rank this just above another impressive Fluttershy showing, Discordant Harmony. With over 150 episodes now, an episode has to be pretty spectacular to make it into the top twenty percent, but this one just does it.

 

A Health of Information armor rating: Crystal Mail
Ranked 10th of 26 season-seven episodes
Ranked 42nd of 175 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

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