MLP:FiM Episode Reviews: Character and Story Analysis by Half the Battle

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Episode 80: "Twilight Time"

Aired 2/22/2014, written by Dave Polsky (his eleventh episode)
  • Intro: The Cutie Mark Crusaders try out new skills they're learning from Twilight Sparkle at the library.
  • Act 1: Shown up by Diamond Tiara, the Crusaders boast that they get to spend time with Princess Twilight. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon insist on coming along to the next "Twilight Time," and Diamond then spreads word to all their classmates.
  • Act 2: The foals sign up for time with Twilight, and the CMC arrange for them to get a glimpse of Twilight at a local restaurant. The CMC are rewarded with favors until everypony demands to see Twilight Time for themselves.
  • Act 3: The CMC race to the library, where Twilight happily receives all the new guests. But she soon learns the Crusaders have been taking advantage of their friendship with her. She sends everyone away but forgives the Crusaders after they demonstrate some progress in their studies.

Character: So far Princess Twilight hasn't been the star of the show that faithful-student Twilight was. This season she's more part of an ensemble cast, being in the spotlight only for the premiere and Three's a Crowd. As with those two stories, this episode further illustrates the point that Twilight humbly accepts her position and doesn't see herself above anyone else. The transition from student to teacher seems to be a running theme this season, and having a class to teach is probably something Twilight has always wanted. She's a natural teacher: kind, patient, and welcoming of anyone eager to learn, but she insists on proper procedure and is willing to challenge her students as needed. It's worth noting that she's passing on her own skills: magic to Sweetie Belle and research to Scootaloo. Apple Bloom's potions likely tie in to her history with Zecora. They also show how Twilight herself now has magic knowledge beyond the use of unicorn/alicorn spells. (Recall that in Bridle Gossip she saw the use of potions as illegitimate.)

Most of the criticism I've seen of this episode has to do with how long Twilight has been a princess, since she's obviously not used to all this attention. By now the series has a flow that implies the stories are in chronological order, and if so it's been at least three months (probably more) since the season premiere. If this story's position were swapped with Flight to the Finish, which was the first Ponyville episode after the premiere, it would make a lot more sense. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if this were the original intent; the two might have been flipped in order to give us an early Equestria Games story. As it stands, however, there are several points in defense of Twilight and her fans: First, Twilight hasn't spent much time around town this season. We mostly see her in the library, at the train station, or off on adventures. Second, Ponyville's adults are used to having these amazing ponies around and probably don't care much for titles, whereas children tend more easily toward hero worship. Third, we see in this episode how Diamond Tiara is able to stir up excitement about whatever she pleases.

In any case, the episode isn't really about Twilight. This is a Crusaders story, with Sweetie Belle receiving the most attention. As we've seen before, she is the idea pony of the team, and her confidence in her ideas makes her the de facto leader of the CMC for this episode. Putting her in the forefront of the story really works, since it features signs of progress and growth among the Crusaders, and Sweetie's maturing voice helps to drive that home. (Her "Relax, I got this" sounds particularly grown-up.)

Level-headed as usual, Apple Bloom is skeptical throughout, and it's precisely when AB turns and begins really enjoying the attention that the whole effort begins to collapse. Scootaloo is in the middle, but she nails the point of the episode from the beginning when she sees Diamond Tiara deploy Randolph: "She's using somepony else to build herself up, and without even putting any effort to learn her own skills like we do!"

Two bits of maturity I notice from the group as a whole come late in the story: When Diamond Tiara remarks about keeping other ponies out of their party, the Crusaders immediately decide to leave. Favors and popularity have their appeal, but the CMC are not tempted in the least to join Di in being exclusionary and contemptuous. The other moment of maturity is the "thanks" scene. With no excuses or explanations, the CMC apologize to Twilight, accept their assumed punishment, and use their talents more than their words to express their appreciation for the time they were able to share. In this series, we're never sure just how easily forgiven the Crusaders will be after their latest scheme, but the second chance they get here just feels right, as they demonstrate growth in their hearts as well in their hooves.

Lesson: As stated above, children tend toward hero worship and are easily starstruck. I believe we're wired that way in our early years so that we will more easily learn from our parents, identify good role models, and get used to functioning under authority figures. But that tendency is easily subverted by school's eternal popularity contest and the temptation to compare life circumstances. Growing up, I was unpopular in school, but as a minister's kid I was known and respected at church for being part of an important family. It wasn't until college that I could really stand on my own two feet. I don't recall ever playing the MK card myself, but there were some who saw me as a leader just because my dad was one. The lesson here is not to take advantage of one's special access, not to flaunt our "social wealth" consisting of name dropping. And like so many of the lessons on this show, it's as valid for adults as for kids.

Adults can take Twilight as a good role model here as well. However far she goes in life, she's still an ordinary person. (I think that's the point of her Jabba-the-Hutt table manners, anyway.) Knowing how valuable her talents and time are, she invests them in friends who can benefit. She treasures her special time with them and even helps them to guard it. But she also receives interruptions graciously. When taken advantage of, she's hurt, but she nevertheless listens and forgives in response to a penitent heart. This is one of the most admirable depictions of Twilight that we've seen in this series.

Connections: Apple Bloom is seen using the inflatable duck worn by Big McIntosh in Pinkie Apple Pie.


Resonance: The lesson and character work are compelling, and the story is interesting, but most of the episode is a little light in the emotional resonance department. Most of the best gags are in the visuals: the horseshoe fries, wiping off ketchup from a burger with another burger, Scootaloo's poses when photographed, the CMC's disguises, the tower of nachos in the trash at the end, etc. Apple Bloom gets the best line, addressed to the melodramatic plant in the teaser. I'll mention the "thanks" scene again as an incredibly touching moment.


Other Impressions and Final Assessment: The story is well paced, including the fake climax of the rush to the library. (There's still a whole act left at that point.) The show keeps us guessing how things will work out each time the CMC try to use their abilities. I'm happy how much material is given to the other foals, from Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon doing something other than bullying, to the return of Pipsqueak and Featherweight. Nearly all the Ponyville youths are seen here, along with over a dozen new ones with a variety of body types, to create a genuinely large crowd of zombie-like fans for Twilight to contend with. There enough to commend here to make this one of the better Crusaders episodes, though I still rank One Bad Apple a tad higher.


Twilight Time armor rating: Iron Armor
Ranked 18th of 26 season-four episodes
Ranked 157th of 233 stories overall

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