In the twenty-fifth and penultimate episode of the second season of Steven Universe, I CAN’T. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
It’s cool to realize that one of the redeeming aspects of Steven Universe is how frequently this show teaches vital lessons to children through its storytelling that I just don’t see anywhere else. I am so used to works of fiction telling their audience that they should give patience and humility to everyone ever that “Message Received” felt refreshing. Here, the writers show us that sometimes, it’s actually not worth it to offer people your trust and understanding, especially when they’re not vested in you or your safety.
And that happens twice in this episode! First, Steven confronts Peridot after he caught her stealing a diamond communicator from the Moon Base. I love that the writers let Steven get truly pissed, more so than we’ve seen in a long, long time. Why shouldn’t he? At every turn, he has given Peridot understanding and kindness; he has gone out of his way to make her feel like she belongs. He’s showed her why his world is worth saving. And after all of that, she still refused to give up her plans to allow the Cluster to emerge.
We’re given a portrait of loyalty in Peridot that reflects how Steven gave loyalty to Peridot, despite that there was tons of evidence that she did not deserve Steven’s loyalty. I adore this so much, y’all: LOYALTY IS EARNED, NOT GIVEN FREELY AND WITHOUT REASON. It’s why Steven is so utterly devastated in this episode. He tried so hard to be a good friend to her, and look what he got! Peridot still betrayed everyone and contacted Yellow Diamond. And while events made it difficult for Steven to properly mourn this (I LOVE PEARL’S LINE ABOUT HIM GETTING TIME TO BE MISERABLE BACK AT THE TEMPLE), the show never says he shouldn’t have felt terrible. No, he totally should have!
That’s important because it plays directly into what happens next. After Peridot betrays Steven, Peridot is betrayed by the person she has idolized and worshipped since her creation. Yellow Diamond is fascinating to me (in an utterly terrifying way) because this was the first full glimpse we’ve gotten of… I don’t even know how to refer to them. Homeworld Royalty? The ruling party of the Gems? Just watching that sequence was unsettling because you can how a person feels about the world by watching how they interact with those who are “inferior” to them. Yellow Diamond is illustrated without any of the soft edges or kind faces that we’ve seen in practically every other Gem; she is a portrait of regal authority. And most importantly, she’s indifferent. Indifferent to Peridot’s opinions, indifferent to anything other than her plans, indifferent to being nice. Watching her talk to Peridot is so heartbreaking because NOW I UNDERSTAND WHY EVERYONE FEARS THE DIAMONDS. Is Blue Diamond any different???
It’s through this that Peridot begins to express what she’s been struggling with the entire time: she doesn’t want to destroy Earth. Whether that’s because she’s come to enjoy Steven or what Earth has to offer (or both!) remains to be seen. Peridot is not going to swear off the Homeworld overnight. She’s been indoctrinated with a specific way of thinking, and that shit doesn’t go away easily. TRUST ME, AS SOMEONE WHO WAS INDOCTRINATED WITH DANGEROUS SHIT AS A CHILD: It takes years to deal with that shit. Plus, Peridot is clearly traumatized by what she just did. She insulted one of the Diamonds to her face. She severed her attachment to the only culture and society she’s ever truly know. SHE IS NOW AN ENEMY TO HOMEWORLD.
Which makes her a Crystal Gem. OH MY GOD, PERIDOT IS NOW A CRYSTAL GEM, Y’ALL. I WASN’T READY!!!
The video for “Message Received” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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