It comes down / to just one simple fact. / They’ve crossed the line, / it’s time that we attack! – Applejack
Once again, it's Applebuck Season, and Applejack is eager to get kicking as the sun rises over her orchards. So she trots around, looking at the apples in the trees, dreaming all her pony dreams, licking lips so greedily... you get the idea.
To her dismay, she find only ruined apples, thanks to the Vampire Fruit Bats. Calling the Mane Six to help her, she explains the situation through song, after introducing our Chekhov's Gun for this episode: a giant, perfectly ripe apple for the Appleloosa's State Fair Produce Competition. Fluttershy, being friend to all living things, joins in the song and tries to take the VFB's side. There seems a slight difference in the way she views them, compared to Applejack.
Fluttershy wants to set aside part of the orchard as a sanctuary for the bats, but the others in the Mane 6 (and Spike) end up agreeing with Applejack that them bats has gots to go... especially Rainbow Dash, who can't handle the thought of a cider shortage.
Twilight has the idea of using a spell to make the VFBs not want to suck the apples, and goes to the library to find one. She succeeds, but it will require Fluttershy to use her Stare on the VFBs to get their attention, making her an accomplice in an action she doesn't think is right. She reluctantly agrees. Now this is a departure from Season 1, where Fluttershy stated that she doesn't control the Stare. Now it seems she does. So did she learn to do it at will, or am I just nitpicking? You be the judge.
So the Mane Six round up the bats, with some comedic antics going on the while, then Fluttershy entrances them while Twilight casts her spell, which seems successful. The group head off for the day, but Fluttershy starts looking longingly at those lovely, juicy apples...
The next day, Applejack finds that her fruit is still being sucked dry.
But when they find the bats, it seems Twilight's spell is still in effect. So if the bats aren't the ones responsible, who is? The Mane Six decide on a late-night orchard stake-out, only to find that the culprit is Fluttershy! But not their beloved wallflower Fluttershy, this one is behaving just like a Vampire Fruit Bat! Twilight soon realizes the reason... while using her Stare, Fluttershy absorbed the thirst for apple juice that Twilight was removing from the bats.
The Flutterbat is much stronger and quicker than normal Fluttershy, and none of the Mane Six can catch her. Why Twilight doesn't use her "Stop" spell from Castle Mane-ia is anyone's guess. At any rate, they use the prize apple as a lure, and mirrors to turn the Stare back on Flutterbat. This stops her long enough for Twilight to reverse the effects of the spell.
Having their good old Fluttershy back, the Mane Six decide to build that VFB sanctuary after all, and later on, Applejack provides one moral, with Fluttershy providing another. (This dual moral thing seems to be a thing in Season 4) Spike is once again the scribe as he writes their conclusions into the Journal. For AJ, "Difficult solutions are better than easy answers", and for FS, "Don't let others push you into doing something you think is wrong."
All's well that ends well... but wait!
This episode borrows quite heavily from "Swarm of the Century", with a vermin problem that Twilight tries to solve with magic and ends up making worse. The spotlight is shared between Fluttershy and Applejack, with Fluttershy perhaps slightly in the lead. The plot flows along quite nicely, there is some funny character based humour, and the design of Flutterbat (if not the name) is really awesome.
Speaking of characters: Fluttershy showed a bit more of her assertiveness, only being convinced to help by Twilight pointing out that she should think of protecting Ponyville's apple supply as well as the vampire bats. Rarity showed her closeness with Fluttershy, being very gentle in trying to persuade Fluttershy to help get rid of the bats, calling her "sweetness" and so on. Pinkie Pie was a riot, and actually helped out in the midst of her madness, which is good, but still might be considered a bit over the top with her gags. Her prehensile mane was one of the stranger parts of the episode, letting her drill through the ground and hold a flashlight. Rainbow Dash seemed more focused on the cider than anything.
As for Twilight, it seems to me that she is getting a little bit taller with each passing episode.
Pinkie and Twilight are standing on the same plane. The following lines from bottom to top (running right to left from Twilight's end) are back of the leg, base of the tail, snout, and top of the ear. She's gained quite a lot of height.
The song in this episode was interesting, reminding me of "What my Cutie Mark is Telling Me", with it being more spoken than sung, at least during Applejack's parts. I haven't formed a firm opinion on it, but I think it's catchy enough, especially the chorus of "Stop the bats, stop the bats!" I did feel bad for Fluttershy being the only one on her side, though.
Rarity ends up with "bats on her face", possibly a reference to Pinkie's line in "Ticket Master".
Pinkie singing "Fruit Bat Roundup" to the tune of "Winter Wrap Up".
Rainbow tackling a scarecrow, thinking it to be the culprit. (Again, works well with the Batman theme!)
The Bat-signal references were very appropriate.
Pros: A fun romp. The design of Fluttershy's bat form was delightful. The animation in general continues to be top-notch, with effective lighting and blurring effects.
Cons: This season is supposed to have a overarching story-line, right?
For what it set out to do, this episode succeeds admirably. A little predictable, but when the journey is this much fun, that doesn't really matter.
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon!
Stay sunny side up!