Dragonshy is an excellent episode, and the turning point wherein the series hits a stride that would bring it the renown it now knows. It prominently features all of the mane six ponies and almost no one else, gives them a lot of fun dialog and animation moments, and has an adventurous feel with a big payoff. The pacing is air-tight, there’s a tiny musical number, and it expands on the lore in what were big ways at the time.
In terms of analysis, there’s not much to say. It’s a super-straightforward episode, and most of the dialog is more humorous or expositional than character-building. What I can analyze, though, is why I would say this when the episode is actually the first of only a few big Fluttershy episodes, and the most important for establishing her character.
I’ve always felt that Fluttershy is the least interesting of the mane six ponies. It’s not that I don’t like her, but there’s not much to her character, and what’s there doesn’t catch my attention. It’s not that she isn’t deep or doesn’t develop—those aren’t the kind of things that I look for in characters. I think that Fluttershy and Applejack are the two ponies who are the easiest to understand without any kind of analysis—but Applejack is a ton of fun to me, whereas Fluttershy isn’t.
Fluttershy is passive to the point of weakness and lives her life by finding ways around confrontation and hardship. Only when her back’s to the wall and it really counts does she spring into action and prove to be very able. She’s like… Shinji Ikari, ponified.
Throughout this episode, Fluttershy doesn’t want to face her fear, but is too passive to speak up, and gets dragged along by her friends until she’s face to face with it. At the last minute, everyone finally realizes that she’s actually afraid (they’re a bit more understanding than Shini’s dad), and tries to go into battle without her (like Rei). When her friends are beaten, Flutters is all like (Imusn’trunaway) HOW DARE YOU?! and wins.
The other characters don’t do anything interesting in this episode, but they’re entertaining because of who they are. This is the first episode in which all of the characters feel very well-realized and more or less embody the “standard model” of themselves throughout the show. Also, no one really learns anything.
Let’s talk about something else—Friendship Is Witchcraft.
Friendship is Witchcraft is probably one of the best-known and indeed highest-quality fanworks of MLP:FiM. It’s built in the style of an “abridged series,” repurposing footage from the show and rewriting the characters. However, it doesn’t follow the usual Yugioh Abridged school of abridged series, which is to exaggerate or invert the characters and make lots of pop culture references and dumb jokes (though it has a bit of that stuff).
Friendship is Witchcraft isn’t an abridged show so much as a whole new show which uses the original as a springboard. The characters have a shade of who they originally were, but are fully realized as these new characters beyond the point of just parody. As one of the jokes in this episode goes:
Applejack: “All of us have *some* depth to our characters!”
Rainbow: “Not me!”
Applejack: “…most of us.”
This isn’t in reference to the actual show—it’s in reference to Friendship Is Witchcraft’s characters, who indeed all have some interesting depth (except Rainbow).
Twilight Sparkle is a self-centered, egotistical otaku. She’s obsessed with writing fanfics and cosplay, but is slightly more obsessed with joining/replacing Celestia on the throne and becoming a princess. And she does.
Fluttershy is a soft-spoken and well-loved but violent and terrible cult leader. I love the balance they struck with Fluttershy. In an interview with the Griffin Lewis and Jenny Nicholson (the show’s creators), they explained that the “Fluttershy is evil” joke is nothing new, but they found the “secret evil character” archetype boring. Instead, Fluttershy’s violence and cruelty is what makes her a respected member of the community, and it lends her a strangely commanding presence in a lot of the episodes.
Rarity plays off of Fluttershy well, being an ex-soldier who suffers from PTSD, and is a die-hard fanatic of Fluttershy’s cult because it has helped her to get through her issues over the years. She’s also as much of a fashion diva as ever and has a fun relationship with her robot sister Sweetie Belle in Neigh, Soul Sister.
Applejack also plays off of Rarity, having fought alongside her in the war, but being a warmonger who mercilessly killed many ponies. Applejack is a respected hero, and a nice person sometimes, but also kind of a hard-ass and maniac under the veneer of social responsibility.
Pinkie Pie is an orphan with a horribly grimdark past who no one really wants to talk to, but they don’t hate her (whereas everyone hates Spike). She becomes a gypsy on a quest to resurrect her dead parents.
And Rainbow Dash… well she’s a nearsighted idiot. A hilarious one, though.
Besides the characters, the show also has a fascinating world, developed bit by bit through the dialog over the course of the series. It’s set in a strange post-war police state wherein knowledge is frowned upon, and loyalty to community takes precedence.
The show is backed by a completely original score, including original vocal numbers which aren’t even based on songs from the show.
So anyways, Dragone Baby Gone is one of the better FiW episodes (of the seven, I’d rank them 5>3>6>4>2>7>1). A lot of what makes it good is the same stuff that made the original good, which is impressive because the pacing and story are completely overhauled. It’s not just good because the original is good, but stands on its own.
Both versions have a lot of great visual and dialog gags, and both are about Fluttershy overcoming her fear of the dragon. The big difference is that in the original, Fluttershy is expected to be afraid of the dragon because she’s a scaredy-cat. In FiW, everyone is surprised that Fluttershy is afraid because she’s, “slayed dozens of dragons before.” As it turns out, this dragon is actually her father. (“Dragonness is recessive,” you see.)
In both versions of the episode, the characters are fun because they embody their core aspects in strong ways. Pinkie tries to get the dragon to party with her in the original, and in this one, she tries to get him to adopt her. In the original, Twilight tries to use diplomacy to convince the dragon to leave, whereas in FiW, she claims to be a princess and commands him to.
There still isn’t much to analyze about this episode. As interesting as the characters in FiW are, the show is also self-aware and not a kids’ show, so everything that makes the characters deep and interesting is explicitly evident, whereas I have to sink my teeth into the original to pull out some of the cool stuff. I just think it’s neat that both versions of this episode are good in similar ways while being completely different.
Rainbow jokes that Rarity’s scarf isn’t going to keep her warm on top of the mountain in this episode. A similar gag about cold and Rarity’s scarves appears 42 episodes later in the season three premiere.