Sunday, 23 February 2014

Episode review: "Twilight Time" (S4E15)

The school ponies get upset
There may not have been an angry mob last week, Pinkie, but...
I didn't get to see yesterday's new episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic live as I was at an (excellent) meetup in Birmingham, but I made sure to catch up when I got home. After last week's superb story, Dave Polsky had a great deal to live up to with "Twilight Time". Pre-episode speculation had revolved around whether it would be Twilight's "key" episode. Was it? Was it any good? Were there zombie ponies? For answers to three or fewer of these questions, come past the jump!

This turned out to be quite a slow-paced episode compared with many of those we've had this season. That's not really a complaint, as it made it feel quite like a Season 1 ep in places – especially in its sense that everything that mattered was contained within Ponyville. It was also a restricted-cast episode in that Twilight and (briefly) Pinkie were the only Mane Sixers utilised. We also got the CMC, however, as well as a huge crowd of other colts and fillies from all over town; clearly there's not a great deal to do for fun in Ponyville!

My favourite thing about this week's episode was the progression shown in the CMCs' abilities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Twilight's own special talent, Sweetie Belle's magic was the most impressive: even at the start of the episode she'd clearly progressed since that sputtering spark at the start of "One Bad Apple", and by the end she was much further on. Scootaloo's mechanical skills also follow on from the same S3 episode, but I suspect it's Zecora rather than Twi that Apple Bloom really needs. Still, I'd now bet on the fillies gaining their cutie marks by the end of S4.

Twilight makes an exhibition of herself at the Hay Burger
She must be doing a lot of flying to work off that many calories!
I was a little less sure about how Twilight herself was portrayed. She's always been a reasonably grounded pony (even with her new wings!) and not someone I could imagine standing on ceremony. She's also the long-time Ponyville librarian, so anypony with an interest in reading or studying is bound to have met her, probably multiple times. Why, therefore, did the town's foals suddenly find her so awe-inspiring? I find myself having to perform some mental contortions to get that to fit together. ("Aw, come on!" as Spike amusingly said.)

Possibly it had to do with said foals having come under the baleful influence of Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. These two actually didn't seem quite as horrible as usual, which surprised me. They were still unpleasant and (as we saw in the scene at DT's) unbearable snobs, but they dialled back on the bullying. Still, we know from "Ponyville Confidential" that DT will dish out praise on occasion, although generally only when it's in her own interests to keep other ponies happy. They more or less got away with their antics, too, which was disappointing.

Still, even if I was a little unsure about some aspects of Twilight's portrayal (and where did those awful table manners come from?) I was pleased with the way that she acted as a teacher. She didn't fall into the trap of just showing her students what to do; instead, like any good librarian, she told them where they could find the resources they needed to learn for themselves. She was also admirably calm in the face of the "invasion" of half the town wanting their own "Twilight Time" – a season or two ago, Twi would have been a wreck after something like that.

The CMC show how far they've progressed
Oi, no unicycling in a chemistry lab, Scoots!
The big background event this time was right at the start, when we got a glimpse of Twilight's library wall – on which was pinned a detailed diagram of The Box, with several (sadly illegible) sticky notes and annotations, presumably placed there by Twi herself. It's interesting that she's happy for it to be up in such a public place; that implies that everypony in town does know about it, and therefore about what happened with the Tree of Harmony back at the start of the season. I was also amused by the return of various background foals, especially Pip – who has magically regained his English accent!

All in all, this was a decent episode. It fits into the general pattern of Polsky eps for me: they're fun and funny, but don't quite gel together as well as the absolute classics. Of his stories, only "Rarity Takes Manehattan" has really risen above this, and I don't think this latest episode does. It may well come to be remembered as a very significant ep in the character development of both Twilight herself and the CMC, but it had the misfortune to follow a truly outstanding episode. "Twilight Time" was a notch below that.

Best quote: Crowd of foals: "Twilight Time! Twilight Time!"

  • Real, realistic development for the CMC
  • Twilight keeping calm in the face of pressure
  • The plans of The Box on Twi's library wall
  • Twilight's sudden in-demandness seemed a bit odd
  • Diamond Tiara and SS were never really punished
  • Not entirely a minus, but notably slow-paced


  1. Attempting to square Twilight's sudden popularity:

    Kids are notorious for picking up a fad, being madly obsessed, and then dropping it.
    The adults seem to be much less in awe, in this and prior episodes.

    Twilight as personal mentor (to the CMC) is a different kettle of fish from Twilight the public servant (as librarian to Ponyville), so knowing Twilight personally would raise the CMC's kudos among their peers.

    Plus, I don't get the feeling that many of the foals are interested enough in learning to be visiting the library very often. Although we haven't actually seen the Ponyville library in operation in the show yet, so who knows!

    But, yeah, mental contortions :P

    1. I think Pip would probably be up for some studying, since he doesn't seem the type to neglect his schoolwork. Featherweight was there as well, and he's on the Foal Free Press team. But you have a point about the library: we don't actually know what sort of library it even is. It surely can't be all that public if it has to double as Twi's house!

  2. Anyone noticed that Sweetie Belle's voice sounds a bit older in this episode?

    1. I semi-registered it, but I didn't really notice until someone pointed it out to me.

  3. I must admit, this wasn't a favourite episode of mine. I don't think it was a *bad* episode by any means, but after quite a decent run of good episodes, and particularly considering the episode it followed, it just seemed lacking anything that made it *really* stand out for me. Perhaps if this one had been somewhere inbetween the "Pinkie Pride" episode and "Filli Vanilli" it might have fared better. As it is, I can't imagine it being one I'd rush to watch again any time soon.

    Having said that though, I did like the diagram of The Box(tm) on the wall, which you mentioned. It seemed as if that box had been pretty much forgotten since episode 2, so I'm glad they added the diagram as a hint that it hasn't been forgotten completely. Though they're going to have to get on with finding those keys!

    And I did wonder if the 3 different projects that the CMC were working on could prove somehow very significant later. Perhaps these will lead to them getting their marks (and doubtless more CMC brushables, complete with cutie marks?) but if not, you have to wonder if these skills that they're working on will have some relevance to whatever happens in the finale.