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Note: Although the U.S. won't air it till next week, Canada aired this episode today. Be prepared for spoilers! Title: Fluttershy Leans In Air Date (Canada): April 30, 2017 Air Date (U.S.): May 6, 2017 Writer: Gillian M. Berrow Summary: "Fluttershy is determined to make her career dreams come true with the help of some very special ponies. But when her true vision is not being executed properly, she must find a way to stand up and fight for her ideas." Canada aired this episode earlier this morning. For those who want to see it early, I'm linking to the video (the audio's a little fuzzy, though):
I have started doing mlp reviews and the main reasons I did this (besides discussing the show) is to improve my editing and voice acting skills. However I could really use some feedback on what exactly I should improve on to focus those things. So please check out my first couple reviews and tell me what I should improve on. https://youtu.be/-Vjg0wlB0O4 https://youtu.be/Koxvzz9pny8 https://youtu.be/0zknDPwwXII https://youtu.be/RA0bJuurV6s
Well, things have changed. If you click on the link, notice how the bottom paragraph's crossed out now. The more I think about it, the bigger the issues surrounding the conflict come up. What helps create an engaging story is not just the conflict in itself, but also the depth of the conflict. When you have both sides being right and wrong, you help create interest for the viewer. Fluttershy is very assertive here, which she should be after the people she hired turned their backs on her. Yet, her and everyone else being in character doesn't make an episode or story good in quality. There are some huge additional problems with the conflict. It's extremely bare, if not nonexistent. Even though the pacing is really slow (which I'll get to), there's almost no tension here. Whatever tension is there is wiped away because the antagonists are one-dimensional, stereotypical, or both. When there's no tension, you tend to feel annoyed or cross at the antagonists if they do something bad just for the sake of it. If you're going to make an antagonist a really big dick, add another vessel to enhance that conflict. Two episodes do this right: Rarity Takes Manhattan and The Main Attraction. In RTM, Suri plagiarized Rarity because she believed that the only way to make it to Manehattan is to take no prisoners. Rarity was visibly shaken and took it out on her friends even though they did nothing wrong. Why? Because she feels psychologically and emotionally betrayed. Rarity's feeling of betrayal and lust to get back at Suri adds depth and tension to the conflict, catapulting when she realizes her friends weren't there and believes her actions cause a fallout. Moreover, there's a small B-plot with a lot of visual storytelling: Coco visibly regretted being involved in Suri's scheme in every scene she was in leading up to the ending. Svengallop is Equestria's biggest jerk, and Applejack has to prove that he's manipulating Rara. But even though he's self-absorbed, he helped her rise to stardom, and Rara gave out valid reasons to believe him and stick with him directly to AJ. It took AJ's stubborn instincts and help from her friends to catch him in the act. Both episodes spend their time developing their conflict from the beginning to the end. That doesn't happen in FLI. She hires ponies to help her develop the sanctuary, and when she isn't looking, they go behind her back, and leave after getting caught a few minutes later. Conflict goes in and out. The pacing is really sluggish. When does the conflict begin? About eight minutes in. Remember, each FIM episode is only 22 minutes long. Beginning the conflict more than one-third of the way through is really late. And it's not like they're stuffing in so much detail in the beginning, either. The story leading up to the conflict is extremely straightforward and took plenty of time preparing itself. When your pacing is that slow, then people are gonna get bored. When people get bored, they may stop, fast-forward, or change the channel. No good episode can dawdle to a sterile conflict. I'm not sure if that truly happened here, but the final product feels over-edited. It's so one-sided when it shouldn't be. Fluttershy is portrayed to be one-hundred percent in the right the entire time, when she should've borne some responsibility for this mess. Fluttershy met them together only once to explain what she wants. Then when she and Hard Hat talk together, they spend no time planning or preparing a blueprint. She gives them her ideas and vague guidelines, and that was that. For Dandy, the same thing with the colors she expects. She doesn't talk a lot about what type of patterns she wants, what type of material she wants, whether the material will be safe for the animals. For Wrangler, Fluttershy could've talked with her about not just the cages, but the size and height to keep them all safe and not worry about them running away prematurely. Fluttershy can work with Wrangler alongside Twilight and even Starlight (and perhaps Sunburst) into creating enclosures that can potentially repel Everfree creatures humanely. If she worked with Hard Hat, Dandy, and Wrangler and took their time conversing with each other, then they could've cooperated with each other better and understood Fluttershy's expectations and standards. This episode feels like it's trying to ride Suited for Success's coattails, this time in the client's point of view instead of the freelancer's. Unfortunately, the primary moral of sticking true to your creative vision even if others try to get in your way doesn't work here. What if Fluttershy has conceptual flaws in her sanctuary? Is everything safe for the animals, and can the sanctuary keep dangerous fantastical animals out? How can you plan it so you have the right measurements, acres, height, and area? Can they test it? Since these animals have some level of sapience in it, and Fluttershy can communicate with them easily, she can ask the animals for advice and be the middlemare to build the best sanctuary possible. There's no such thing as a perfect project. Everything can improve. Because of its shallow, sluggish conflict and Fluttershy's careless mistakes that any responsible client or contractor should pay attention to, the theme and moral they're trying to teach really ring hollow. After sitting back and thinking about the episode, the flaws become more and more exposed. It did many things right, yet has some major issues with the conflict, both in its plausibility and weight. If one of your most important parts of telling a story has major issues, then your whole story begins to collapse. Is Fluttershy Leans In bad? No. But is it good, either? No. It's the weakest episode conflict-wise since AJ's "Day" Off, and I would even say FLI's a little worse. At average, it's the worst episode of the season so far.
Fluttershy was absolutely on point here. Since her disastrous performance in Rainbow Falls (then again, everyone there was disastrous ;)), her characterization has gradually improved with little flanderization and/or out of characterization. Even in bad episodes like Flutter Brutter, she was the highlight. While she was still sweet and caring, her entire goal for this project is to care for and respect the animals and will do everything in her power to make sure they were given the proper treatment. While those "experts" had their vision, it was clearly not the one she was looking for. No, she's a very bad blueprint planner, but she clearly has a pictorial idea of how she wants the sanctuary to be developed. Not only does she clearly understand how the animals behave. She understands they need the right habitat to thrive, rehabilitate, and survive. All three "experts" clearly betrayed her by not only doing what they wanted, but doing it right behind her back, even though she flat-out said "No!" Three words: "No means no!" While it was surprising to hear her shout and yell at them, she's well within her right to do so. There was some criticism of Fluttershy for hiring Hard Hat, Wrangler, and Dandy Grandeur and for the RM5 for recommending them to her. That criticism makes no sense. Like a building itself, animal sanctuaries require design and construction. According to her friends, they were experts in their fields and worked with them during their spare time, so Fluttershy trusts their instincts. The construction worker would plan and build the sanctuary. The interior designer would lay out the sanctuary and make the enclosures fit in each of their environments. The wrangler would help build the fencing so no animal can either escape or invade in other animals' spaces. In short (and credit to Maud Pie for this), the three occupations make a whole lotta sense. Unfortunately, each of their recommendations are reliant on word and mouth. While it's understandable in Fluttershy's point of view, having flashbacks of these three showing showing us how well they craft their work can lend in some extra credibility to their work. How? When people see how well they work, then we as an audience can believe them better and trust AJ's, Pinkie's and Rarity's advice. All of the characters were never even heard of until here, so this doubles the important. Moreover, when the audience can see how well they work, yet betray Fluttershy's vision, that betrayal can sting more to the audience. It's a little detail, but it's also important. One big flaw from last season is how Starlight wasn't treated as an actual part of the cast, but was thrown in whenever the episode needed her. Even if she didn't have to speak and could be included as some cameo like Dungeons, she was absent. Here, she was directly involved in building the sanctuary. Little details like these further establish her as an organic part of their world. As I think about this episode, some issues definitely crop up. The biggest one is how simplistic the plot is. If you read G. M. Berrow's books, simplicity in plot is what she tends to write. Unfortunately, it doesn't work as well in a 22-minute plot, which makes the conflict drawn out overall and overlooked on some key things, particularly in one scene. Like any form of construction, building a sanctuary is really complex and requires a lot of planning. Despite clear understanding of how Fluttershy wants the sanctuary laid out, there's a big difference between drawing a landscape and designing/planning one. There's no blueprint in the literal construction of the place. She showed Hard Hat the drawing and notes, told him very clearly what she wants and doesn't want, and it was off from there. When you don't have a blueprint, nothing truly gets done, much less get started, and you risk major mishaps along the way. It's very important in any job to have clear and concise direction and communication. Clarity on both sides was semi-absent. The conflict would be given much better justice had there been some development of a blueprint for the sanctuary. Sadly, DHX skips over this really important level of detail, and it hurts the conflict. Credit goes to EQD's Seraphem and Sirius Face for pointing this out. The language of "sanctuary" could've been clearer, too. Traditionally, animal sanctuaries are built so they live there for the rest of their lives. From what Fluttershy suggests to the audience, no one in Equestria has done this type of project before, which is why it's treated as so ambitious. In real life, sanctuaries exist throughout. Now, before we get further, not all sanctuaries are equal. Some sanctuaries are treated as rehabilitation centers or temporary homes for animals, where the wild is treated and will either be released or relocated to a new home. Here, the show exclusively treats an animal sanctuary as a physical rehab place, and as the animals here show some level of sapience, it makes sense. Could've been better if there was…I don't know…another word or phrase. Fluttershy's goal is very sudden, too, but it's more of an issue with the show itself (in particular its on-the-fly canon) rather than the episode itself, so I hold nothing against it. That said, she does show some understanding of building the right environments for specific animals, as evident by Bats's ending, so there's some credit to continuity here. It could've been a better if it was hinted early in the episode to lead her goal in better. While there are some issues here, it doesn't change the things it does right. As far as character and progression is concerned, this is some of Fluttershy's best characterization. She had the right idea on what the animals need and is absolutely in the right to call out the people she hired for betraying her word. And despite not having a blueprint, she does know what she's doing, and she's assertive without crossing the line. It's a good episode, but could've done better if the plot was quicker.