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I’m finally broken. The ride never ends.
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From the beginning, let me clarify that I enjoyed the hell out of this episode. I really did. Having said that, I think this is the point where Season Four has finally broken me. I feel like I’m on a crazy train that’s left the rails, and I’ve just gotta buckle up and let the ride take me wherever it may go.
I had this moment watching the episode, and let me know if you had it to, where I was like, “oh man, this is a pretty good moral they’re building up to. I wonder how they’re gonna portray the resolution,” and then suddenly, “FLUTTERSHY IS A BAT, YOUR ARGUMENT IS INVALID.” I mean, what do I say to that? It has nothing to do with the narrative or moral lesson of the episode, but Fluttershy turned into a fucking bat. Last week she was a Hulk and that was whatever, but now she’s a wild batpony and I just love it. I love the way she’s animated, I love the idea that this is now a thing, and I hope to god that ending hint wasn’t just some bullshit slap in the face like the thing at the end of Castle Maneia supposedly was.
I can’t rightly say that I’m about to thoroughly analyze this episode, because I can’t stop feeling like the whole thing is a farce. Even though Fluttershy is great in this episode in general, I don’t think it worked as any kind of character study in the slightest. Even though I think the moral that they hinted at, which I’ll dive into momentarily, was fantastic, I’m half questioning if it was even intentional, since the episode goes completely off the deep end halfway through.
Season four is difficult to analyze with any confidence because none of it seems to fucking matter. Besides Flight to the Finish, it’s got lessons that are either absolute nonesense, or poorly tied to the episode’s storyline, characters that haven’t done a damn thing new (I’m looking at you, so-called alicorn princess Twilight Sparkle), and every premise seems to be trying to one-up the last with how insane it can be, without any narrative purpose.
Quite honestly, I don’t feel like I have it in me to “thoroughly analyze” episodes like Power Ponies and Bats which are just meant to be a fun, wacky sound and light shows without any real substance backing them. These episodes are way better suited to the comedic style of Silver Quill and Drowning In Horseshoes, who can make entertaining videos out of this stuff while taking it as it is. Seriously, go and subscribe to both of those channels. If anyone deserves to really be the flag carriers of the My Little Pony analysis circuit for season four, it’s probably those two. Check out Gibbontake while you’re at it, and Tom’s Q&A videos are really great, though I think he’s feeling similarly to myself at this point.
I’m not saying that I’m done with MLP analysis, though I do plan to move into other media analysis on this channel in the very near future, i.e. NOW. I’m still going to write about every new episode that comes out, but this season just has me feeling washed up. There’s plenty of other analysts saying a lot of what I have to say. But hey, maybe I’m overthinking it. I do actually have a lot to analyze about this episode.
So the first half sets up for this great message about speciesism. It’s actually a pretty fascinating topic to think about just how much intelligent species tend to value themselves and their needs over those of less intelligent species, to the point of being ready to annihilate another species in the name of minor convenience. If you’ve ever swatted a bug, you should be able to relate to that sentiment, and actually taking the time to think about your cruelty can be a pretty eye-opening experience.
During the song, we get this brilliant bit of symbolism as we see the different perspectives that Applejack and Fluttershy have on the vampire fruit bats. When we’re in AJ vision, everything is dark and gloomy, and the bats look like hideous monsters, but when we’re in Fluttershy vision, everything is vibrant and nice, and the bats are adorable. Fluttershy sees them for the good, and AJ sees them for the bad, though Flutters perspective seems at least a bit more balanced.
Fluttershy points out that the bats actually help to produce more productive apple trees in the long term, but Applejack won’t listen, and that’s where this episode loses track of whatever it was going for. The goal that it’s setting up seems to be for Fluttershy to make Applejack realize that she’s being short-sighted and too quick to demonize these creatures. However, she plays the trump card early on that the bats are actually a force of good, and AJ doesn’t even listen.
Now, people have been criticizing me in my negative reviews for projecting my expectations onto the episodes, and most of the time I’ve defended that I came up with my criticisms in retrospect. In this case, the episode really did subvert my expectation, but I wouldn’t be bringing it up if I thought it worked well. I really expected to find out something like the Vampire Bats were what caused AJ’s giant apple to grow in the first place, or that they produced apples so alluring that ponies couldn’t resist them.
But in reality, Applejack never learns any reason to keep the bats around other than what she already knew. They don’t decide to make a bat sanctuary because they care about the bats more than they did before, they do it because they realize that getting rid of them is too much of a pain in the ass. What kind of a lesson is that?
There’s also this lesson about Fluttershy facing consequences for allowing her friends to pressure her into doing something she knew was wrong. This is an okay lesson, if not that thematically strong, but it brings to my attention the number one thing that pissed me off about this episode: Twilight Sparkle.
Twilight. What. the. fuck. are. you. doing? Was it wrong of me to expect that now that you’re an alicorn princess you’d be better at leadership roles? Or at least, you know, retain the lessons you’ve been learning across the entire show? What happened to Bridle Gossip? What happened to Swarm of the Century? Did you have to give up your brain to make room for your wings?
Okay. I’ve gotta calm down. Trust me, I’m not joking, I love this episode. It’s my favorite episode of season four so far, but I love this thing the same way I love Equestria Girls. It’s dumb and silly, but I like it because it’s a great sound and light show. I was super kind to that movie because I knew that everyone else was ragging on it already, and that Tom was working on his epic-length negative review of it.
I’m a lot more bitter over season four. And no, I don’t think it’s me, I very much think it’s the show. They’re going for something different with this season. I can’t be the only one noticing that FIVE of the seven episodes take place at primarily at night. That two of them are horror-themed, and two of them are largely reliant on pop-culture references. That there’s this huge new focus on continuity and callbacks, and that every single episode has unnecessarily featured all of the mane six doing next to nothing. Something is different this season. I don’t want to try and place it, but I can’t help the feeling that the production staff has been allowed to go a little more wild as the result of their show appealing to a wider audience. Take that as you will.
The episode boasts some of the best animation in the show, with detailed, unique backgrounds, and the amazing job that they did on Flutterbat. It’s got a fantastic song that pays tribute to Danny Elfman and the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. It would be remiss of me to discount these factors, because they really do matter to me. I’ve watched this episode three times now, and even though I think most of the dialog is stupid and redundant as shit, I love the song and the flutterbat scenes so much that I just walk away feeling happy every time.
Fluttershy is really strong all throghout the episode. I know that when I started this channel I was pretty harsh towards Fluttershy. I loved her in Keep Calm and Flutter On, I thought Dr. Wolf’s defense of her that kicked off his channel was brilliant, I adored her in Equestria Girls, and I thought she was strong in this episode even before the Flutterbat scene. I really think she’s come into her own and I enjoy her character a lot at this point.
But even when I’m walking away with a smile, there’s some stuff about this episode that eats away at my mind. Okay so Twilight makes the bats lose their taste for apples. What are they gonna eat now? Are they gonna starve to death? I assume Twilight’s spell transferred the bat aspect to Fluttershy either because she was nearby, or because she was using the stare on the bats. But then the spell is able to be reversed without meeting the same conditions. Or did it do something different, hence the fang? Seriously, I’m gonna be so fucking pissed if that fang isn’t a thing.
And can we talk about how fucking inane this plan is to make Flutterhy use the stare on herself? The episode clearly establishes that it’s something she does through a concious effort, yet she can somehow use it on herself accidentally by seeing herself in the mirror? She runs away from the first two, but the third one stops here? It certainly doesn’t look like she’s using the stare. Is she just supposed to be in shock from seeing herself? If so, some dialog to that effect would’ve been nice.
I feel broken. Like I said, when I wrote about Equestria Girls, I was in a defensive position, but now I’m in an attacking position, on an episode that I actually really like. I don’t know how to feel about this. Like I said, I plan to keep covering this season, but I’m in a weird position, where I honestly think other people are more in tune with what this season is trying to do, and I’m some crazy old man raving about the good old days of season three. Anyways, I’ll be over here having an existential crisis till next week.