MLP Friendship is Magic, Season Two, Episode Twenty, "It's about time" Review

Once again this review will contain spoilers. Those of you who have not seen this episode yet, you have been warned.

So our episode starts with Spike asleep and dreaming about showing Rarity around a world made of ice cream and chocolate. He's soon interrupted however by a sound from downstairs which wakes him up. Going down to check it out he finds that the sound was Twilight pacing around and worried that she doesn't have enough time in her schedule to make a new schedule, leading into today's title sequence.

When the episode begins proper we find that Twilight is continuing with her plan to write a new schedule. When she finished, she's surprised by a bright light which, once gone, shows that there is now a pony in her home that looks remarkably like her only with different clothing and an eyepatch. The pony reveals that she IS her, only from the future and that she came back to warn her of some disaster that will soon happen. Twilight, excited over the prospect of time travel, talks over her future self's warning so much that the future Twilight runs out of time and the spell that brought her to the past wears off before the warning can be given properly, leaving the present Twilight unaware as to what the disaster in question actually is, only that it will happen "next Tuesday".

Running into town to warn everybody of the impending disaster, Twilight accidentally knocks into Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie. Getting onto a nearby platform, Twilight begins to warn all in the area that something is about to happen. But because of the sheer strangeness of her story, the largely ignore her. Fortunately for Twilight, her friends believe her. As such they come up with a plan to try and prevent any disasters over the next few days. Twilight oversees the whole operation, doing everything she and the others can to make Equestria as safe as possible, from fixing dams to reinforcing bridges and everything in-between.

Suddenly, out of nowhere comes a ferocious creature known as Cerberus. Thanks to the intervention of Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, Twilight is able to lure the creature away from the town. However, when she returns from her trip she finds that she has a cut on her cheek identical to that her future self had. This tells her that her attempts to fix the issue that will happen in the future isn't going well. She then considered that perhaps doing something isn't the issue, but rather "not doing something". So she tries to stand perfectly still and not do anything until the time has passed. However, due to Spike and Rainbow Dash's annoying intervention, this fails. In fact, it not only fails, it ends up with Spike accidentally sending some fire her way and singes her hair to look like that of her future self, deepening her fears that the disaster will come to pass.

To try and help Twilight, Spike takes her to a fortune-teller in town to help her find out what the future disaster actually is. The fortune-teller in question turns out to be Pinkie Pie, who does her best to help Twilight with her problem. Unfortunately her attempts don't help, nor does her "Pinkie sense". However, the later does predict when an out-of-nowhere pot plant falls on Twilight's head. This injury causes Twilight to wear a bandage on her head, much like that of her future self. Because of this latest failure, Twilight endeavours to monitor everything around her by way of a number of telescopes in her home. Her stress levels get even worse when it's revealed by Pinkie that the Tuesday is in fact the following day, which prompts Twilight to continue looking in her telescopes. This however leads to a glare of sunlight affecting one of her eyes and leading to her having to wear an eyepatch like her future self.

At this point Twilight has been driven pretty much over the edge by these experiences so to stop the disaster, she vows to "stop time" itself. To help her with this plan she recruits Spike and Pinkie to sneak into the Canterlot archives at night, which are guarded. After sneaking past all the guards they successfully find the right section of the archives. One of the guards shows up, much to their shock, but it turns out to be one of Twilight's old friends who lest them in the sealed section of the archives. Upon entering, Twilight looks in a nearby mirror and finds that she is now a spitting image of her future self, so the disaster cannot be far off. Despite their best efforts, they fail to find the right spell in time before Tuesday morning. However, much to Twilight's confusion, nothing happens.

Realising that there was no disaster, they wonder what the future Twilight could've possibly been trying to warn her about. Twilight, now relieved about no danger, instead jokes about how she wouldn't be in such a mess right now if she hadn't been worrying about the future so much. Because of this, she promises to worry about problems as they come, not problems that might one day happen. As Twilight is considering how much trouble she could've avoided if she hadn't worried so much, Pinkie comes in and shows Twilight a spell to travel back in time. Twilight uses the spell to go back in time one week and tell her past self not to worry about the disaster as it's not going to happen.

However, when she goes back, it plays out exactly as it did when Twilight encountered her future self at the start of the episode, right down to Twilight vanishing back to the right time before she could tell her past self what she went there to say. Once back in her own time, Twilight realises that everything she did was because of failing to tell her past self not to worry about something that wasn't going to happen in the first place.

And so our episode ends with Spike getting a stomach-ache from eating too much ice cream in the episode.

So, how does this episode hold up?

Well, as many of you are aware by now, I've been growing increasingly worried with regards to the level of originality being shown to us in recent episodes. Whole plots seem to be used over and over again, as do individual themes and morals. This is an issue which has been frustrating for me to watch. However, fortunately for me, this episode manages to actually surprise me with it's story. I have to give credit where it's due to the writers for this one. Not only is this a story we haven't had before, but it's told in a way that I would never have expected. Honestly, how many of us would have ever predicted that a story involving time travel would ever be used in a My Little Pony cartoon? So on that basis alone, I have to give a thumbs up to this show for proving once more that it can still surprise us.

The overall story, when looking at it's basic elements, has a strong feel of "Lesson Zero" about it. By this I mean that the basic story is about Twilight becoming worried about some future event she has no control over and becoming increasingly unstable as a result of her worry. I know I just gave this episode a pass for originality, so I may come across as a hypocrite for saying this. But I honestly have no issue with this re-used basic premise. Due in no small part to my love for that episode but also because, as I said earlier, it's nice to see old story ideas shown in new ways. However I will say right now that this brings up something of a downgrade with the episode if you compare the two. This is because in that previous episode, Twilight's mental state was the source of much of the story's humour. Here, it's a source of concern, both for the character and the audience. It's not funny here like it was in the other episode as we're constantly thinking to ourselves as we watch that something bad is going to happen. However, this actually works in the episode's favour as it provides plenty of drama that this show's been severely lacking in recently.

The issue of messages from the future is an interesting one to use in a cartoon, especially for one intended for a really young audience, so I'd like to discuss it here for a moment. Now anyone who's seen stories involving time travel will know the basics, that a tale like this is largely a story of pre-determination verses free will. Or, to put it plainly, whether or no we have control over our destinies. Twilight faces such a problem here in this episode. The idea that the future may not be changed is one brought up many times in the episode and her actions to try and change it in spite of that possibility is a very, for lack of a better word, human thing to do. After all, if any of us were to receive a warning like she did, I imagine we'd do the same things as her. We wouldn't accept the notion that our future is set in stone and unchangeable. After all, why send a warning to our past selves if that was the case? So kudos to the show for putting Twilight in a very believable situation. Well, as believable as you can get when unicorns and time travel is involved at least.

As this episode focuses on Twilight I'd like to talk about her character for a moment. I've already mentioned how she's put in a very relatable situation and how it's easy to root for her here. But at the same time we identify not only with her actions, but in her failures. Many times in this episode she comes across some sort of issue that prevents her attempts to change what her future self warned her about. Whenever she failed, I felt it. I must give praise to Tara Strong at this point for the episode. As the most experienced voice actress in this show, as far as I'm aware anyway, it makes sense that she'd be so good at bringing such distress across. But nevertheless I feel that I should say well done to her for a great performance this time around.

As for the other main characters, they all do okay. I actually like that they trust Twilight enough to believe her when she tells them what's going on even though most normal people would never believe a story like hers. But after everything they've been through it's understandable that they'd trust her like this, which I liked. However, what I don't like was the attitude of Spike during this episode. Whenever Twilight was growing worried or stressed, he either mocked her to made her feel even worse. His attempt to goad her into moving during her standing still moment is just one example of that. I really don't know what his problem was in this episode. Perhaps he was jaded over Twilight waking him up from his dream about Rarity or something. But if it was indeed something as small as that then I'm sorry but that's just incredibly petty.

Despite my praise so far I do have an issue with this episode. However, the issue is less a case of something wrong with the episode or the characters but rather a bias on my part. Those of you who read my review of "Super easy cider squeezy 6000" may remember this, but back then I criticised that episode for the inclusion of a machine in what, to me, has always been a fairly consistent fantasy setting. Having a world of magic and unicorns and all those other things was somewhat spoiled for me by having what could very well be a piece of real-life technology put in it. In my eyes, it had no place there, much like the trains occasionally seen in other episodes. Here in this episode I come across a similar issue. The inclusion of time travel, though certainly able to provide many great story ideas, doesn't seem to fit right in a fantasy setting. As far as I'm concerned, time travel has always been more suitable for science-fiction shows, so it's inclusion in this episode once more ruins the fantasy aesthetic for me. If you have no issue with that, then more power to you. It's just not for me.

However, I will admit that despite my personal preference that time travel remain within the realms of science-fiction, I admit it was handled pretty well here. I can honestly say though that I was able to predict how the episode was going to end, that it would be a simple misunderstanding brought on by Twilight's refusal to listen to her future self. That's not a criticism however as it provided plenty of good moments throughout the episode to enjoy. I will admit however that the time travel made writing this review difficult, especially towards the ends of the synopsis. I didn't even write half of what I wanted to write in order to properly explain the whole time paradox thing. But when I attempted to do so I kind of got a headache so I kept it brief.

In addition to this there was one moment near the start of the episode that bothered me. It happens when Twilight encounters her future self for the first time. This scene plays out pretty well all things considered but Twilight's behaviour during the encounter seemed somewhat off. She's always seemed to me to be a very practical and level-headed character, someone who understands when something's wrong or important. It's clear just from looking at her future self that she's not in the best of shape, that something bad has happened. The future version makes it very clear that there's something important she needs to tell the present Twilight, but instead of listening, Twilight just acts excited and happy, not letting her future self enough time to tell her what she needs to know. I understand what the writers were trying to do here. They were trying to keep Twilight and the audience in the dark about what this future even supposedly is. On that basis, I can understand why they had the scene play out the way that it did, but still, it just felt like they were forcing an out-of character moment on Twilight in order to keep that mystery going. And that just didn't seem right to me. Though ion all fairness I suppose I couldn't have come up with a better way of doing it myself.

Humour now and this week, being a Twilight episode, much of the jokes and humourous situations revolve around her. As I said earlier, her increasingly stressed mental state over the "impending disaster" was less a case of it being funny so much as it was dramatic. Having said that there were some good jokes here and there in spite of that. Tara Strong provides some fairly humourous moments with her in this episode including one scene involving a similar situation to what happens back in "Lesson Zero", wherein Twilight thinks up what kind of bad things might happen in the future. I know I'm not much of a fan of repeated jokes, but here I'll let it slide. However, the biggest laugh for me in this episode was towards the start of the story, where Twilight meets with her future self. She's energetic and excited over the prospect of the possibility of time travel and asks many questions to her future self. This whole exchange was good but the moment that tipped it over the edge for me was a brief moment where the present Twilght says how proud she is that it was her who ended up time travelling. The look on her face and the tone of her voice was spot-on and very well performed by Strong. It was a funny scene, although looking at it, I was left thinking that it was the kind of behaviour that seemed more suited to a character like Pinkie Pie rather than Twilight. But then again, I suppose Twilight has always had a large streak of curiosity, so I suppose I shouldn't be too hard on that. Pinkie Pie during her appearances was an absolute riot this week. Every lines she said was pitch-perfect and had me in near-stitches every single time. My favourite line of hers had to be towards the end of the episode where, after Spike comments about their black skin-tight outfits, she remarks "we're not wearing these for fun?" A bit risque perhaps, but funny nevertheless.

Time to talk about this week's moral-of-the-day and in this episode is unusual in that it doesn't have the typical letter-the-the-princess that we're so used to in other episodes. In fact this episodes doesn't really have a "moral" per se so much as it has a simple cautionary tale. The message here seems to be that you shouldn't let your fear of things that might happen affect your life. I know from first-hand experience how much you can be affected by worrying about far-off problems. I know even more about how blind it can make you to the issues that are staring at you right in the face. Because of this I can honestly say that this is a good lesson to teach.

Overall I find that this is a pretty entertaining episode. I know I had some negative things to say about it here and there, but all-in-all I found this to be both a good story and an effective character piece for Twilight. Despite supposedly being the main character, her appearances in this season have been getting increasingly sparse, so it was nice to see her take the spotlight once more. The story had some great ideas and they were implemented well. I heartily recommend this one.

Join me next week when Spike spends time with his own kind in episode twenty-one of season two, "Dragon quest".

 

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