|Enough with the bashing.|
I've been told that one of the things I do, which is basically sum up the entire episode before I get down to review it, takes a lot of time and space of the review and that skipping it will make me gain a lot of time when producing these articles. My reason behind doing it was so those who haven’t watched the show could get a good grasp of what the episode is about without having to actually watch it. This is an approach used by many reviewers, like the Nostalgia Critic, Film Brain, The Spoony One, Brad Jones, etc. I like doing it because it does help me get a better idea of how to tackle the episode and approach it from an established tone and point of view. Yes, it does take a while to comment each one of the acts, but I am so used to it that I can’t imagine doing it any other way. So with that said, let’s throw the “Spoilers Dash” here and review the episode!
So the episode starts with Fluttershy singing in the morning as she attends to her chores and feed her animals, proving to all of us that she actually lives inside a Disney movie produced during its Golden Age. It’s only when she’s done that she realizes all of her friends have been listening to her the whole time.
|It's like that one awkward scene in Titanic that you laugh at when you are a kid, but you cringe when you are an adult.|
Rarity is so impressed with her singing that she offers Fluttershy a position in her music band “The Ponytones”, a barbershop pony quartet that’s very similar to “The Be-Sharps” from “The Simpsons”. Rarity wants Fluttershy to turn the quartet into a quintet, but then Fluttershy refuses due to her overwhelming stage fright. Not wanting to pressure her beyond that, Rarity decides not to bring it up again as the Mane Six move back to town to prepare for Ponyville’s Pet Center Fundraiser, which is organized by Fluttershy, and where “The Ponytones” will be performing. As they practice their singing, including Big Macintosh letting go of that glorious deep voice of his, Fluttershy sings along and moves her hips at the rhythm of the music, though she coils when other ponies walk past her. With the practice over, and Rarity failing to direct Spike’s praise from her to the entire ensemble, they all go to their houses to rest their voices. On the next morning we find out that everypony followed her advice, except the lead singer, Big Macintosh.
|Big Mac is all like "Worth it!"|
As it turns out, Big Mac lost his voice during Sweet Apple Acres “Turkey Call” competition, which was won by Pinkie Pie to add insult to injury, and they are now short of a deep voice to complement the harmonics. Short of a remedy, and desperate to keep the Pet Center Fundraise going, Fluttershy suggests they all go to see Zecora (wow, brave little pony who was scared to go to the Everfree Forest in Season 3, now that it’s been cleansed she’s a lot braver to go in there). Zecora can offer a remedy, but it will take a couple of days to take effect, which leaves the group without their singer in the meantime. However Zecora does have an idea to supply the group with a substitute singer. Give Fluttershy a dose of Poison Joke, and make her voice turn deep and manly like in the episode “Bridle Gossip” (all the way back to Season one!). Fluttershy is determined to do this, though she’s terrified of performing in front of others, so Rarity suggests they do playback. Big Mac will be on stage moving his lips, and Fluttershy will be behind the stage, doing the singing. As we can imagine, everything goes swimmingly. It goes so well that the Pet Center Fundraise is an absolute success, and their performance catches the eye of one pegasus dad who wants to hire them for his daughter’s cuteceañera. After this it’s all a string of successful performances that take them from celebration to celebration, and Fluttershy only grows more and more enthusiastic about it. She’s enthusiastic enough to appear more confident than Rarity, who is just worried they might be abusing from Fluttershy’s kindness. She is so enthusiastic that, even when Big Mac has been fully recovered, she still wants to sing. It’s during this performance that her enthusiasm gets the best of her and she ends up knocking down the curtains, revealing that it was her doing the singing.
So with Fluttershy revealed as the singer the whole of Ponyville looks at her but, surprisingly so, they all seem to love her for it. They love her deep voice and her energy, but she doesn’t see that. She just sees dozens of judging eyes like glowing spotlights that overwhelm hem and erase her out of existence. Frightened, terrified, and many other adjectives that means “scared shitless” Fluttershy runs away to home to remove the effect of the Poison Joke and return to normal. Her five friends come to visit her, but due to Pinkie Pie’s insufferable optimism she just runs away to escape the praise. She’s so scared she doesn’t even want to hear how good she was. They finally stop her at the stage, and that’s when Rarity tells Fluttershy that she knew she was performing all the time not because she didn’t want to disappoint others, but because she really wanted to sing, regardless of who it was. But most important of all is that Fluttershy had, though unintentionally, faced her biggest fears and in the end it didn’t turn out so bad. She got a really positive response, and that gives her the strength to keep on trying and keep on working on her singing. She becomes the fifth member of The Ponytones, and starts working on getting her stage fright under control, as she learns that keeping those fears under control will help her become the best pony she could possibly be.
So that was “Filli Vanilli”, and I do have to say one
thing about this episode before I jump into saying what I liked and I didn’t
like about it. I think this is the most adorable episode of the entire season.
Yeah, I know, kind of weird to say this adorable show has a really adorable
episode, but let’s face it guys; this Season has been switching between
nightmare fuel, badass central, and rule 34 hub. When the episode wasn’t scary
as fuck, it was saucy as hell, and when it was neither it was hardcore. Perhaps
the cutest episode until this one came out was “Pinkie Apple Pie” and what
people seem to remember the most out of that one is Pinkie Pie’s duck-face.
“Filli Vanilli” feels like a downright absolutely adorable episode, one that
serves to showcase how good its characters can get to be. So, without further
ado, let’s talk about the good and the bad. This time the good will go next.
Something tells me this is another episode where I hated absolutely nothing.
|That look is the look of a Best Pony.|
For starters, I can’t believe there was a time when I actually hated Fluttershy. No, really, go take your time machine and travel back in time two years, and ask me which pony I’d like to throw into a wood-chipper. I’d say Strike (that fucking bowling-pin colt from “The Cutie Pox”) and then I’d say Fluttershy. I look back to those days and I feel like a monster. Past me deserves all the slaps in the face he could take and then a few more, because oh my God, Fluttershy was fantastic in this episode. She is, without a doubt, one of the strongest leads this show has right now. She was absolutely adorable, but not in an overwhelming way. She wasn’t “diabetes inducing” adorable, she was more like “I really want to give her a hug” adorable, and that’s a good thing. Too much of something good is bad. I like how toned down and under control this aspect of the episode was. She was strong, and she was determined. Her passion was palpable in every scene, and her enthusiasm for singing was absolutely contagious. There is something strangely relatable on her every time she has to face her fears and fight for who she is. She is starting to trample over the competition and she’s getting really close to Applejack on the third position of my Mane Six list.
Her singing at the beginning of the episode was beautiful at the start. It carries tones of the Opera scene from Final Fantasy VI mixed with Snow White. If the episode had
been just twenty two minutes of Fluttershy singing like this, I would have
absolutely nothing to complain about it. However, it doesn’t end there. Her
singing and talking as Flutterguy, with that really deep baritone
voice, was really good and really funny
too. I do have to admit though, there is kind of a disconnect between both
types of voice. When Flutterguy is singing, she sounds great. It sounds great,
it feels great, it’s the kind of voice that you want to keep on hearing because
it’s smooth and melodic. However, when she talks in the Flutterguy voice it
starts being ha-ha funny, and then it becomes weird funny. Flutterguy was first
introduced in the show in such a surprising and hilarious manner that it was
ingenious, and it was all based around the fact that you had no idea what was
going on. I am really happy that they bring it back here, in probably one of
the smartest decisions this show has ever made! But the price to pay is that the
impact of the comedy wears out quite quickly. It’s really cool to see Amy
Keating Rogers bring back one of her own pieces of show canon and gets to
deliver it by a character she introduced to us in this show.
|This pony is so cute she shouldn't even exist.|
|"You'll be a dentist! You have a talent for causing things pain!"|
It was also great to see Zecora coming back. We have had a lack of her ever since the Season premiere, so seeing her return was a welcoming surprise. Her iambic pentameter is still off and her snotty attitude hasn't improved, but she is our rhyming, magical, shaman zebra friend and seeing her always makes me happy.
|Happy, and jolly, and I think I need to get my LP of The Pretenders.|
Speaking of making me happy, Rarity was in the episode and she was perfect. I know, what a shock, James going ga-ga because his favorite pony is in an episode. Well, yes, because after last week’s debacle in Rarity’s insanity, I very well need and episode where she keeps a level of criticism while at the same time staying likable and fun. This episode was really it. Rarity is demanding and bossy, but she is also caring and compassionate. She does like to give praise to all of the Ponytones and doesn’t take the whole credit for the singing. She cares enough for Big Mac to take him to get healed, even though she got angry at him after losing his voice (although she did tell him to take care of his voice, and then he did whatever he wanted). The one thing that I enjoyed from her was how concerned she was about Fluttershy. Every time, after every performance, she always said no to the next client, only to have Fluttershy coming at her and making her change her mind. She didn’t want to put Fluttershy’s stage fright at risk of being triggered, which I found really touching. It was very subtle, but it was there. And when she finally goes at Fluttershy, and tells her that she knew it was her passion for performing, and not her concern for disappointing, what was driving her singing all along, that was a great moment. Yes, this entire paragraph is biased. You can go ahead and shout at me for that. I don’t care. Rarity keeps proving she’s best pony for how much she cares for her friends.
As for the other characters, they were alright. The rest of the Mane Six were a bit underplayed, especially Rainbow Dash and Twilight, who were just there to fill in for dialogue, but they were not a bother. Applejack was fantastic, and I will elaborate more when I talk about the comedy. As for Pinkie Pie, I think I should mention that she didn’t bother me all that much. She’ll be further explained in the comedy part along with Applejack and everything else, but I didn’t hate her whatsoever. Her extroverted attitude was obviously exaggerated in this episode to serve as a clear contrast for Fluttershy’s introverted personality. She might not have been a very nice character, but she was a great narrative device. In this regard, Pinkie Pie ended up being alright in my book.
The best way to define the characters in this episode
is gorgeous. They were absolutely gorgeous. Their relationships, their
friendships, what ties them together, it’s just so beautiful! This episode,
like every other good episode of this show, represents what this is all about.
It’s about the friendships and those behind them, in particular those of The
Ponytones, and between Fluttershy and Rarity. That was the glue that held
together the story and the narrative and it worked great.
|She deserves several more rolled-up newspapers to the head, though.|
|Also, people said I look like this guy. I have no idea why.|
Speaking of which, I think I can’t fault the rhythm nor the tone in this episode. You might have noticed how I have a trend of pissing all over the rhythm of each episode since pretty much “Flight to the Finish”? Well, that trend just got snapped in half over my knee with this episode, because I think the rhythm is perfect. It has its calm and relaxed moments where you can take a moment to breath, followed by the fast paced performance montage that shows how The Ponytones grow in popularity. It also walked the very thin line between comedy and drama really well, juggling Fluttershy’s internal conflict along with the ridiculousness of the situation. It gave time between funny reveals and dramatic moments, and it had a really well carried emotional climax towards the end of the third act. This episode did have big emotional punch. It wasn’t as strong as “Rarity Takes Manehattan” ending, or Cheese Sandwich’s reveals in “Pinkie Pride”, but it was around that area. The moment where Rarity begs Fluttershy to stop running tugs at my heart strings enough that I feel my eyes get a bit misty.
So the narrative is great, the characters are great,
but how is the story? I think this is one of the smartest written episodes of
the entire show. I don’t even doubt about it. I am absolutely sure that this
entire episode is written around that one incident out of the many that left that one music duo “Milli Vanilli” out of business. There is a reason why this episode is called “Filli Vanilli”, because it’s
about a music group that performs on-stage, and the singing is done backstage
by somepony else. And the funny thing is that, when it’s revealed that the
singing is done by somepony else, the audience doesn’t give a shit. They love
it regardless! Which is exactly what happened in real life! This is the type of
episode that only gets better the more you think about it. It has imaginative
situations that weave into each other and they flow great. They don’t feel
forced, the characters stay themselves, the focus isn't lost, and the writing
is just spot on.
|I know I sucked in last week's episode, but I can change!|
|I also heard your cottage caught fire. All those poor little critters.|
|Derpibooru? Eyup. Shinning Armor? Eyup. Rule 34? Eyup.|
One thing that kind of bothered me when I first watched this episode was how they introduced Fluttershy’s stage fright. It’s clear that she has always had a fear of performing in front of others as episodes like “Hurricane Fluttershy” and “Hearth’s Warming Eve” have portrayed, so I really didn’t understand why was it suddenly such a big deal. It felt like she was back at square one, which to me it felt like they were negating character development and sacrificing growth in favor of story. But then I talked to one of my friends, and he mentioned how he had no problem acting in front of others but singing terrified him. I realized that acting and singing are two completely different things, despite both of them being categorized under “performing”. It’s quite clear that Fluttershy managed to help with the tornado in “Hurricane Fluttershy” because it was an emergency and a case of need, and she managed to act in “Hearth’s Warming Eve” because all of her friends were there with her. So after watching the episode with all of this in mind it didn’t bother me all that much. It does make sense though. You can easily tell when an actor is comfortable when he or she is acting, and when he or she is singing. Just look at “Les Miserables”. You have Anne Hathaway, who’s amazing both acting and singing; and you have Russell Crow, who acts and sings only when he feels like it. It’s not so much stage fright as it is pure incompetence, but you see the point. It’s all about breaking barriers and Fluttershy is clearly still breaking through hers.
|She has no problem about shoving her ass on a window, though.|
Speaking of which, the way they ended the episode was unbelievably mature. I have to admit, I am getting tired of how this show solves its conflicts within the time span of 22 minutes and then it moves on to the next drama. The only conflict I really have never seen get resolved within one episode was the Cutie Mark Crusaders never getting their Cutie Marks (and we all know this is because Hasbro doesn’t want them to). So it was a breath of fresh air to see that Fluttershy hasn't gotten over her stage fright. She does manage to perform in front of her friends, and her animal friends, but she backs down when it comes to perform in front of bigger audiences, and says that a process like this takes baby steps. That is incredibly true. You can’t throw someone out there and expect them to be amazing, it takes a lot of confidence, and hard work, and time, and practice. Fluttershy is probably the only pony who could take on this kind of story and make it work, which only makes it even more enduring. She is proud of her progress, even if it’s small, and by the end of the episode it’s clear that she wants more of it. But only in small doses, and very slowly.
|Really, this series is now heartlessly teasing us.|
So yeah, the writing is pretty much spotless! But what about how the episode looks? What about the visual aspect of it?
|Like these five guys, it's very pretty.|
Well, to continue in the line of this show’s animation quality, this episode is absolutely beautiful. I rarely bring this up, but I love how the shots are planned, and how the cinematography adds to the scene. I know it’s weird to talk about cinematography in an animation, but really some of the shots in this episode are gorgeous. Both close ups Fluttershy gets are pretty, she looks really cute, but then there are the birds flying before the sun rays, and how their wings cutout over the light, or those tracking shots as Fluttershy trots over the field. The night scenes during the Pet Center’s Fundraise, and during the last performance at Sugarcube Corner were fittingly gorgeous. The musical numbers were always interesting, and even though they kept on performing the same song the variety of locations made them feel fresh and new every time. But if there is one thing that I am taking out of this episode in the visual department that is the second panic attack of the entire series.
The moment at the beginning of the third act when she
is on the stage, with all the ponies looking at her, that is legitimately
horrifying. This show just keeps pulling off ways to represent panic attacks,
and they all relate to Fluttershy. First it was the eyes hallway, and now it’s
the council of floating ghost pony lantern heads, that can erase you from
reality with their spotlights. That was horrifying! That is going to give
little kids nightmares! It’s going to give me nightmares! When Fluttershy just
gets erased into a blinding white light it’s just horrible! But horrible in a
good way, like so well done and so well portrayed that you feel sorry for that
pony. It’s so good.
As you can tell I have basically next to nothing to
complain about this episode. The two flaws I did come across get quickly lost
in a myriad of dozens and dozens of good points that all are stronger than
Chuck Norris’ chin. This is a beautiful episode, gorgeously put together,
perfectly acted, fantastically performed, really creative, with an air-tight
armored screenplay, sympathizing characters, relatable conflict, and an upbeat,
hyper-positive attitude. Few times watching something made me feel so good
about myself and everything around me. This is going to be one of those
episodes that I will re-watch every now and then to remind me why I do what I
|I seriously wonder when did My Little Pony turned into "Pink Floyd's The Wall".|
|It's good for us, but it's terrible for her.|
- Defining Moment: From the dramatic point of view, the scene where Fluttershy runs away at the end and its conclusion; and from the funny point of view, Applejack’s argument with her brother Big Mac. But honestly, the entire episode is basically a defining moment for what this show is all about.
- Moral: Sometimes being afraid can stop you from being who you really are, and by hiding behind these fears you are only hiding from your true self. You have to be able to face these fears, so you can shine and be as good as you can be.