In the fifty-first and penultimate episode of the first season of Steven Universe, help me. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.Â
What the fuck what the fuck.
I appreciate that this show is willing to acknowledge that, as smart as Steven is, as much training as he’s had, and as courageous as he is, he is still a kid who is about to get involved in something more terrifying and violent than he’s ever known. He still has caretakers who want him safe and alive, and he has a father who would be devastated to lose his son. Thus, the opening scene with Peedee forces us to consider that. If it’s a lot for Peedee to have the responsibility of closing up the fry stand, then isn’t it way worse for Steven to take on the responsibility of saving the whole world?
There have been some eerie or creepy moments spread over this first season of Steven Universe, but I had never experienced the surreal dread that that hand inspired in me.Â The choice to make it a hand and to have it point at Beach City was brilliant because it’s so accusatory. The ship itself acts to warn the people of Beach City: We are coming for you. From the shockwave upon entry, to its slow descent into the atmosphere, the whole thing is pure horror.
And the citizens of Beach City react with panic because WHO WOULDN’T. Despite that weird shit happens there all the time, this is so much worse than anything they’ve ever seen before. And yet? They find a way to band together, through Mayor Dewey and through Steven. If anything, I’d say that the people of Beach City are resilient. Also? Super smart because FUCK THAT, I WOULD EVACUATE, TOO. Bravo for them all being savvy enough to realize that they should leave.
Then there’s Steven, who listens to Garnet and leaves town with his father, all so he can do his best to protect the humans he cares about. However, his conversation with his father is game-changing for the episode and the show. Greg accidentally reveals a whole lot more about the Gems than he intended to, and I get why he did! Steven had so much hope that Peridot would see the awesomeness of humanity and give up their plan to annihilate Earth. Actually, I don’t even think Steven had the concept of annihilation in his head. He couldn’t conceptualize what it was that Peridot would do, and Greg nudged him into a better understanding, and then it’s not a nudge, and Steven got shoved into the realization that his friends might actually die while facing down Peridot.
Steven has been shown to be caring, kind, and deeply empathetic. This whole season is like one giant character exploration, and thus, I didn’t question his intense desire to return to Beach City to protect the Crystal Gems. It’s who he is. His identity is based on this selflessness! (And the more I learn of Rose Quartz, the more I can see her influence on her son.) If he knows that his presence could tip the scales away from Peridot, he can’t run away. If he knows there’s a chance that his shield could save lives, he can’t run away. It’s not who he is!
I’m still in shock from the final scene of “The Return.” Peridot’s promise is fulfilled as they return to Earth in their creepy ship, bringing with them Lapis Lazuli and a new Gem: Jasper. WHOSE CHARACTER DESIGN IS SUPER AWESOME. I love their size and their voice and YES. More Gems like this! Okay, yes, they are also currently the antagonist bent on destroying everyone, but STILL.
I love a good cliffhanger. And this counts as one because I can’t see the solution. That’s what lures me in. Well, this show is spectacular and these characters are fantastic, and yes, that’s what lured me in a long time ago. But after hinting at the Gems’ past on Earth, after visiting Kindergarten, after learning Amethyst’s origin, after getting horrifying glimpses into the home world, this is the outcome. Peridot has come to reclaim Earth, and in the process, they’ll exterminate every living thing. Jasper, whose intense dislike of Rose Quartz influences their decisions, cuts down Garnet with little effort. (IF GARNET IS DEAD I AM GOING TO BE FURIOUS. FURIOUS.) How will these characters stop them? What of Lapis Lazuli? How will she play into this?
Also: WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS SHOW.
The video for “The Return” can be downloaded here for “$0.99.
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