|Previous: Twilight Time||It Ain't Easy Being Breezies||Next: Somepony to Watch Over Me|
|Aired 3/1/2014, written by Natasha Levinger (her second episode)|
|Character: Fluttershy is in focus here, and I believe her character is well used and believable throughout. The show's creators seem to understand that her timidity, her desire to avoid confrontation, isn't just a single issue to be worked through in an episode. It's a whole domain of her personality that touches every aspect of her life. She can't change who she is, but she can learn the necessity of standing firm in different types of situations. We've seen her be tough to protect others, and she's learned how to stand up for herself (which she does fairly often now). But in this episode the prospect of "tough love" is being pitted against her Element of kindness, specifically in her role as a caretaker of creatures who are begging for her hospitality. Whatever lessons she's learned in the past, it's understandable that Fluttershy would find kicking them out to be exceptionally difficult. I like that she's not a total pushover in the second act: She challenges Seabreeze's rants and does insist a couple times that the Breezies move on, only backing down when they play on her sympathies. I also think it's good that she takes responsibility for the situation rather than bringing in the rest of the Mane Six; they don't really need to know all the specifics. Besides, per Three's a Crowd, her task comes from the Equestrian Society for the Preservation of Rare Creatures. She's the one accountable for whatever happens to them.
Seabreeze probaby won't be a fan favorite like Coco Pommel and Cheese Sandwich, but he may be the most realistically developed guest introduced this season. His character must have been a challenge. For the episode to work, Seabreeze needs to be both unkind and sympathetic, and that sympathy can't derive merely from his "cute" appearance. (It helps that he's actually less cute than the others.) He needs to be a leader with a lesson to learn and who still gets respect after admitting and correcting his mistake. Fortunately, we get this. His edgy personality, like the orneriness of the other Breezies, reflects FIM's non-girly approach despite the creatures' sugary appearance.
The Breezies' look took me by surprise, since the G3 Breezies were just miniaturized ponies with wings and antennae. These are truly insectlike, with just enough ponylike features to be recognizably equine. Their cuteness is offset by the fact that they're basically just a lot of trouble. Even without their mischievousness in the cottage, everything we learn about the Breezies makes them fragile. They're easily confused, easily lost, easily stepped on, unable to make decisions for themselves, and dependent on magic that can only be activated by a breeze which must be just the right speed. Some ponies like Fluttershy will be fascinated by this and naturally drawn to help and protect them. To others, few traits are more exasperating than being needy. Yet it's certainly understandable if the Breezies have developed a sort of learned helplessness as a result of their condition and are simply unable to cope with the idea of setting out on their own.
Unfortunately, the Breezies (besides Seabreeze) are totally undifferentiated. They're basically all interchangeable "background ponies," although the animators do a fine job of creating distinct designs for each and don't clone them except when the entire swarm is present at the beginning. I also think the Breezies concept is hurt by the overly complex way their travel is described, with the factors of riding the breeze, activating magic, concentrating, and carrying and protecting pollen all confounded together. It kind of makes sense if you pick apart all the exposition, but I doubt many children would be able to follow it. It would have been better to leave out the magic angle and just say they require a specific windspeed at their tails which limits how quickly they can travel, and that they're easily blown off course by any side winds. The background really doesn't need to be any more complicated than that.
One minor out-of-character moment exists for Rainbow Dash, since she seems as excited as anyone else about the Breezies. This stands in contrast to her previous boredom at witnessing a butterfly migration with Fluttershy, as referenced in Dragon Quest. At this point in the series she wouldn't need to be unpleasant about it, but I would have kept her a bit more serious. An eye-roll or two from RD would also have helped make up for the other characters' gushing about the Breezies' cuteness.
|Lesson: The world we live in takes advantage of kind and generous children, indulgent parents, and codependent adults, so tough love is an important lesson for every well-intentioned soul out there. I believe the assertiveness issue here is handled better than what we saw in Putting Your Hoof Down, for three reasons. First, Fluttershy gives us two really good, context-sensitive, positive examples of what to do as she deals with the bees and the Breezies. Second, the show presents both Fluttershy's and Seabreeze's extremes in a believable and relatable fashion while still being clear about why they're wrong. Third, Fluttershy's concern both before and after the lesson isn't about herself; she never lets on that taking care of the Breezies is any trouble to her. The Breezies are only hurting themselves and the truly kind thing to do is to force them out the door. Genuine love is a far-thinking thing that often has to take a difficult course (e.g., talking out a problem instead of ignoring it for the sake of a peaceful evening).
This episode also shows sensitivity to the personal aftermath of having to be unpleasant with a loved one. Fluttershy crying after getting cross with the Breezies is part of the lesson. We needed to see this, because if you've ever had to be tough with someone you care deeply about, it really hurts, and the show is rightly honest about that. On that note, however, I think the show missed a golden opportunity here by leaving Fluttershy alone at that moment. We should have seen Angel and/or some of the other animals come and comfort Fluttershy as she weeps. We wouldn't need the extended scene we got in Hurricane Fluttershy, but a few seconds would have made all the difference.
|Connections: The fourth "key" episode. Fluttershy left to observe the Breezies gathering their pollen in Three's a Crowd.||Body Count: It's subtle, but Seabreeze makes use of terms such as "everybreezie" and "nobreezie" in his speech.|
|Resonance: This episode is surprisingly light on humor, with the stand-out joke being Rarity's totally gratuitous blaming of Twilight for her purple-sequined outfit. Fluttershy's bee costume is also a fun little gag. Rarity's shiny clothes and our sight of the Breezies' home are really awesome moments, and Twilight's mastery of her spell is very impressive.
This is a quite dramatic episode, especially as we see the conflict between Seabreeze and the others. For me the story really gets interesting when Seabreeze turns from anger to sadness at the fear that he won't get home. That's more poignant on repeat viewings when we know he has a newborn there. I believe Seabreeze's apology to his team is amazingly well executed, as is Fluttershy's sending the Breezies away and crying afterwards (minus the missed opportunity discussed above).
One scene that leaves me ambivalent is Spike's apology to the Breezies after the leaf incident. It's a decent opportunity for drama but it seems like it's supposed to be played for laughs. I'm perfectly okay with deriving fun from Spike in a slapstick fashion, but not from emotional torment. After that, he really deserves a chance to make it up later in the episode, but instead he disappears. A pity they couldn't have used his dragon breath to keep the portal open or something.
|Other Impressions and Final Assessment: Like Baby Cakes, Look Before You Sleep, and a couple other episodes, much of the appeal of this story is a matter of personal taste. I really don't think the show goes over the top in cuteness, since we get Seabreeze's gruffness and a look at the obvious dangers of being so small.
However, I do think there are a couple objective ways this one falls short. First, the principle of "show don't tell" is one of the strong points about this series and one of the things that sets it above most programming for young viewers, but in this episode the characters can't seem to stop telling us how adorable the Breezies are. It was even overplayed back in Three's a Crowd, and we could have done without all that build-up. Also, during the Cakes' exposition scene and a handful of other moments, I felt like I was watching a children's cartoon. The series usually finds better ways to communicate background information than having two characters standing there saying it to each other. For better exposition scenes, check out the library scene in Sonic Rainboom, Twilight's first conversation with Luna in Luna Eclipsed, the film in Hurricane Fluttershy, and Twilight's Tron-inspired graphics in Bats!
The show does have plenty of good things about it, beyond the praise I give it in the character and lesson sections. The writer lets an argument between Fluttershy and Seabreeze go several lines longer than previous generations of MLP might have allowed. I really like the pacing of the show. We stay with Fluttershy until the last few minutes, which keeps the focus on her response and not on the Breezies' delay itself. The actual trip home is just there to wrap things up. On that note, turning the Mane Six into Breezies is something I never would have expected, but which fits with Twilight's series-long interest in transformation spells. I acknowledge that Hasbro may have insisted on such a scene for toy-marketing purposes, and if so, I appreciate the difficulty the writer must have had finding a good enough reason for the ponies to do that to themselves. Within the show it works fine (though it could have used some set-up earlier in the episode), and for those who don't care for it, the scene is mercifully short. At BABSCon, the author of this story expressed a general desire that we not blame the writers on the rare occasions it's obvious they were asked to write a story to promote a specific product. I respect that and I don't blame Levinger, but I also want to evaluate the episode as it stands and give it a fair ranking.
I suspect with all the Breezie characters to design and keep track of, the animators had a lot on their plate in this episode, thus a lot of copied ponies in the crowd, etc. But I would encourage them never to let up on considering whether this or that idea is compatible with ponies. In this episode, for example, the thimble and eyedropper Fluttershy uses seem a little out of place in a world of hooves. On the positive side, the mariachi pony's horn—curved so the valves can be stepped on—is a much more equine design that hearkens back to the creativity we saw in the first season.
Overall, this is a pretty good episode that has its strengths, especially on the character work. But the story needs a bit more polish to bring it up to MLP's standard.
It Ain't Easy Being Breezies armor rating: Iron Mail
Ranked 25th of 26 season-four episodes
Ranked 120th of 147 stories overall
|Previous: Twilight Time||It Ain't Easy Being Breezies||Next: Somepony to Watch Over Me|