Oh, butch ponies and femme ponies! Can they ever get along?
Episode 7: "Dragonshy"
Fluttershy is making her feeding-the-animals rounds and encounters resistance from her bunny Angel, whose passive-aggressiveness has gotten only worse since "The Ticket Master."
Angel's surliness lessens only somewhat when he notices the driving force of the episode: a giant cloud of scary black smoke approaching Ponyville!
Fluttershy runs into town to sound the alarm about the smoke, but nobody hears that alarm because she sounds it very, very quietly. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie largely ignore her, being far more interested in Rainbow's current attempt to become Equestria's ball-bouncing record-holder. Pinkie starts counting ponies to determine how many balloons she'll need for the inevitable celebration, and Proto-Derpy is among those startled (or about to be startled) by Pinkie's POV census in this episode's DerpyWatch.
They're next startled by Twilight Sparkle, who arrives with an alarm that nobody else has yet sounded: There's a giant cloud of scary black smoke approaching Ponyville!
Have you ever been in a group of people, made a joke that nobody responds to, then someone else repeats the joke verbatim and gets a big laugh? Yeah. That.
Twilight has it on authority from Princess Celestia that the smoke is not being caused by a fire (that's good!), but it is being caused by a dragon (that's bad!), which gives Fluttershy a Shaggy moment.
The dragon in question is snoring out smoke while it naps atop a mountain, and our ponies are charged by Celestia with waking it up and convincing it to relocate, lest Equestria be choked with smoke for the next century. Everyone's enthusiastic about their mission -- except for Fluttershy, who doesn't quite get into the spirit of the battle-prep montage, in spite of its awesome Dirty Harry-esque theme:
Fluttershy tries to back out at the last minute, though Twilight's not having any of it, as Fluttershy's animal-whisperer mojo will be crucial. Rainbow Dash, in a rare moment of clarity, argues that Fluttershy's fear of everything (including, but not limited to, her own shadow) will slow them down.
But Twilight has faith in Fluttershy, and they drag her along as they proceed to simply walk into Mordor. Getting her up The Lonely Mountain -- that was in Mordor, right? I've never read The Hobbit -- is another matter entirely.
Fluttershy tries to fly, what with being a pegasus and all, but between her fear of heights and smoke-bellowing dragons she crashes back down after a few seconds, frustrating even Twilight.
Applejack offers to take Fluttershy up the long, windy way...
...but even after that, Fluttershy continues to slow her down with her intense phobia of the entire world. All the while, the rest of the ponies are in a fine mood, bantering in a way that Fluttershy can seldom participate in even on a good day.
Why is everypony on the dragon-waking mission? Not the because they all have to be in every episode -- Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie were absent from "Boast Busters," and the upcoming "Look Before You Sleep" is a bottle episode consisting of only Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, and Rarity -- but because this early on in the series, the only way for a Fluttershy-centric episode to really work is for her to have the rest of the characters involved for contrast.
And for us to feel their frustration, spoken (as always) by Rainbow Dash.
We all want to be Rainbow Dash, who comes across as so cool and self-assured. But whether we care to admit it or not, we're more like Fluttershy -- except for you, the reader, you're totally a Rainbow Dash -- and that's why Fluttershy's a more interesting character to me. There's so much potential for growth ... and for trauma, which is pretty much the same thing.
I should also mention that Pinkie Pie is in rare, extra-manic form this episode.
They reach the dragon's cave, and Twilight Sparkle plans for her and Fluttershy to go inside and talk some sense to the dragon. Except, no, Fluttershy cannot, cannot go in the cave.
It's not even the "cave" part so much as the "dragon" part. Not even the magical power of her friends trying to talk her into it, with an accompanying swelling of the score, can persuade her.
What does finally persuade her is seeing her friends getting their hinders kicked (non-lethally) by the dragon. The dragon is a bully, and that will not stand.
Fluttershy successfully scolds the dragon into leaving...
...and in the Shoehorn, Twilight relates the importance of having faith in your friends. That would be a fine way to end the episode, except we also get our first Everybody Laughs Ending. Oh well. I'm no good at endings, either.