In the twenty-sixth and final episode of season two of Steven Universe, Steven discovers something about Garnet and Peridot. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Season two of Steven Universe – which was somehow even better than the first one – ends not with the kind of plot-twist-heavy, revelatory storytelling that we got in “The Return” / “Jail Break.” Instead, season two gives us a thematic ending that reflects the season as a whole. What’s impressive to me is that it still manages to pack a major emotional punch in the process.
Look, I love stories about redemption and friendship about as much as I love breathing. It’s just my thing, and this season has given me a long story about Peridot redeeming herself; about the Crystal Gems doing everything they can to stop the destruction of Earth; about Steven learning of how complicated relationships with other people can be. All that’s present in “Log Date 7 15 2,” which tracks the aftermath of “Message Received.” As I hypothesized in the last review, Peridot was traumatized by her interaction with Yellow Diamond. But this episode’s big surprise is that somehow, Garnet became the person that Peridot relied on for support. The episode is a bit epistolary in nature, given that Steven listens to Peridot’s tape recorder to help him understand how Garnet and Peridot struck up a friendship. It’s a brilliant choice because it helps this episode feel final without it being a summary or a clip show. The situations are familiar since they’re all things we’ve technically seen, but the tape recorder narrative device allows us to see in the crevices, to notice what we’ve missed before.
It’s an achievement to realize how emotional this episode is while being one of the funniest stories in the whole run of the show. Watching Peridot adjust to life on Earth with her caustic sense of entitlement is a million times more enjoyable than it sounds. On paper, Peridot is probably just an asshole. But her voice actor gives her a life that feels so very real and genuine. Peridot literally doesn’t understand how Earth works! When she observes the ladybug flying, she wonders if all creatures secretly have the ability to fly. SO SHE PUSHES GREG OFF THE ROOF. Yes, it’s cruel and mean, but look how Garnet offers Peridot sympathy in that moment. She realizes that Peridot doesn’t get how all this works, and she hopes that Peridot will learn from her mistakes. (Which makes the events in the first half of “Message Received” all the more heartbreaking.)
This is a common theme across all the log entries. Steven teaches Peridot about rudeness; Peridot discovers jokes; Amethyst shows Peridot how her shape shifting can be valuable outside outside of work. There’s so much here that extols the virtue of discovery and creativity! Of course, because all of this is new to Peridot – and because she’s still got the mindset of a Homeworld Gem – she experiences a lot of shame and embarrassment, at least until she discovers the joys of shipping. WHICH IS A BEAUTIFUL, PERFECT SEQUENCE, Y’ALL. But over the course of this episode, Peridot grows in a way I’d not considered before. She slowly stops being ashamed for liking Earth things. By the end of the episode, as she sits next to Garnet and stargazers with her, she’s still got a lot of shame to deal with. I’m not saying it’s going to disappear by the start of season three.
There’s no better example of that than Peridot’s attempt to understand Garnet. After watching Pearl and Amethyst fuse for work on the drill, Garnet seemed to make less sense to Peridot. Why would she stay permanently fused? What value was there in maintaining it? SO GARNET TRIES TO SHOW HER BY FUSING WITH HER. The whole thing is frightening to Peridot because she’s been told to think of fusion as something that’s utilitarian, that only serves one specific purpose. (Oh my god, the metaphor works SO WELL here, I am going to explode.) The beautiful thing about this is that Peridot became friends with Garnet through trying to understand her. The show doesn’t say this is an easy process either, but it instead demonstrates that it’s possible.
Empathy. This whole season was about empathy. The big moment at the end of it was Peridot coming to understand Garnet and why she stays fused. I honestly can’t deal with this because I’M NOT USED TO IT. I’m not used to shows consistently dealing with these themes over multiple episodes. And doing it well on top of all of that! Just… my gods, this is so great. Rewarding and fulfilling and exciting, and also goddamn hilarious.
I can’t wait for season 3.
The video for “Log Date 7 15 2” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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