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

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Episode 7: "Dragonshy"

Aired 11/26/2010, written by Meghan McCarthy (her first episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Angel alerts Fluttershy to smoke approaching the town.
  • Act 1: Fluttershy's attempts to alert Ponyville to the smoke go unnoticed until Twilight Sparkle announces it. Princess Celestia has assigned the Mane Six to awaken the dragon whose snoring is causing the smoke. The ponies gather their things and set out, though Fluttershy would prefer not to go.
  • Act 2: The Mane Six begin climbing the dragon's mountain but are slowed down as Fluttershy refuses to scale the cliff, is afraid to jump a narrow chasm, and causes a rock slide. The team eventually reaches the dragon's cave.
  • Act 3: Several ponies fail to persuade the dragon to leave, and he angrily attacks them. Fluttershy opposes the dragon in defense of her friends and drives him away with a stern lecture. The ponies return home victorious, but Rainbow Dash is still spooked enough to be startled by a roar from Pinkie Pie.

Character: Fluttershy must have read The Hobbit. I do find it interesting that the writer chose to give Fluttershy a specific phobia of grown dragons (a nice contrast to her introductory gushing over Spike) rather than blame her hesitations on being generally fearful. She is more generally fearful in this episode than usual, but this can be blamed on her stress about the dragon. Fluttershy's protective streak suits perfectly her care of animals and recognizes the "mama bear" side that marks well-rounded kindness. The running gag of no one listening to Fluttershy—not one of my favorite gags—comes up a few more times but isn't how she's usually presented. Her very occasional joking/snarky comments, beginning in this episode's final scene, are much more effective and hint that there's a lot she's hiding beneath the surface.

Applejack steals the loyalty points for this episode, since Rainbow Dash is a real downer here. This early on, we may wonder whether Dash is the team grouch or has something against Fluttershy (recall Pinkie's nixing of her prank idea two episodes back). Through later episodes we discover this is a matter of developing character and plays into their long history together. Rainbow redeems herself by kicking the dragon and being proud of it, and she does get some comeuppance at the end. When the episode first aired, viewers were beginning to turn against Rarity, given that her skewed priorities nearly subverted the whole mission. Besides her generosity with the sea serpent, she hadn't displayed much beyond pride and love of the spotlight, and wouldn't receive much positive attention until mid-season. I'm not sure whether the writers were just giving her room to grow or deliberately set out to redeem Rarity when they noticed she was being outshone by the other ponies. (It may be helpful to keep in mind that all the first season episodes were written before any of them went to air, so none of the events of this season are a response to viewers' reactions.)


Lesson: Another bait-and-switch. This is not about facing your fears. This is about being there for your friends even in their weaker moments. Twilight's letter is awkwardly worded to encompass both ideas, but Twilight and the others are the ones learning a lesson: specifically, not to dismiss Fluttershy.

Logic: It's not actually a problem, but we may be surprised Celestia is entrusting this mission to the Mane Six so early in the series, especially without the Elements of Harmony. (Their absence here was my first clue that they hadn't kept them.) We can only trust that Celestia knows her confidence in them is well-placed. How much she knows is anyone's guess.

The dragon's hundred-year nap points to greater potential longevity for Spike than for Twilight and the rest of the Mane Six. (We're not told how long most ponies live, but presumably it's not centuries if events from 1,000 years ago are shrouded in legend as in the premiere.) I'll be shocked, though pleasantly so, if the show itself ever confronts this.

Body Count: Twilight says, "Your way with wild animals will surely come in handy." An odd expression to be sure, but would "hoofy" be any better?
Connections: This show isn't explicitly referred to later, but it's the first time the Mane Six as a group have saved Ponyville and is often used by viewers as a marker as they attempt to track Fluttershy's personality across the series. Also, the manticore from Friendship is Magic part 2 is mentioned.

 

Resonance: A lot of work went into making this a fun adventure. From Angel's hacker's cough to the fainting goat motif to Pinkie's outfit, the episode is packed with humor. I really liked the lock-and-load montage and Rarity's "best of 71" suggestion. Fluttershy's "how dare you" scene is a foreshadowing of things to come but was a total shock on my first viewing. I've never been more proud of Fluttershy than I was here.

This episode has a major moment of drama as well, particularly for those familiar with stock cartoon stories. After Fluttershy's initial refusal to enter the cave, we get the pep talk from the leader, and Fluttershy looks into the encouraging eyes of all her friends. This is the point any other toon character would say, "Okay, I'll try." Fluttershy's "I just can't" is heartbreaking because it's so unexpected and sincerely disappointing. Twilight's "Oh, Fluttershy" puts the perfect cap on the scene.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: Most of the vulnerabilities of this episode are a matter of hindsight or can be understood as character development in its early stages. The viewing experience itself gives the impression of a sort of bite-sized epic. The writer does a great job of having the characters mirror our own feelings toward Fluttershy—growing annoyance as she keeps setting the others back (offset by the comedic moments), turning to serious compassion as she gives up at the mouth of the cave—perhaps even regret for being annoyed earlier; ever known someone with a phobia?—followed by jubilation as Fluttershy faces down the dragon.

For the enjoyable experience I have any time I watch this episode, and what in my estimation is an important message, I consider it excellent, the best stand-alone episode so far. The fact that it doesn't quite make the top ten for the season (or even the top 50 overall) shows just how quickly this series gets really good.

 

Dragonshy armor rating: Iron Armor
Ranked 11th of 26 season-one episodes
Ranked 104th of 147 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

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