I was re-watching these episodes which I love by the way, & I wanted to address one of your confusions about the whole FlutterHulk thing considering the idea of her chickening out made her look bad as a character.
I assume you never watched the old Incredible Hulk TV series that started in the late 70s. The Hulk was meant to be like a horror character, Bruce/David Banner and by extension Fluttershy didn’t want to unleash their powers because they fear it. They know what it could do, and in many cases try to avoid changing at all cost. The Hulk is a power used as a last resort because of the unruly nature of it. Sure it might stop the bad guy but now you got another can of worms to deal with & that's assuming they lose total control & have to fight both. If you have other heroes like Thor, Dr. Strange, Quick Silver and the like, they have powers to fight back. Fluttershy’s mind set was they could defend themselves, but when a small firefly gets hurt/ someone that can’t fight back, You bet your flank Shy will Hulk out to protect them.
I'm not a die hard of fan of Hulk but I know enough about him that to me they really played his tropes to a T.
Not really, it seems like they are expanding their ideas, I know there are ton of Comic book girls but generally a lot of guys also are into super hero comics, the fact that they made this episode proves they are noticing us male Bronies more. Which means that opens to a lot of ideas they wouldn't normally would have thought of for a "Girl" show.
Well... I say so because this episode (the whole Season 4 for that matter, except for Rainbow Falls, Pinkie Apple Pie, and the one episode with Weird Al) didn't apeal to me as "good" ideas. I'm not trying to be a hater or anything, but season 4 urks me to just have a facepalm everytime I watch something in the episodes that I just... don't. Especially lately... like "I found it in the Canterlot Enchanted Book... yadda, yadda, yadda..." I'm like, "REALY?! You ponies got nothing to do with your lives, do ya?"