In the eighth episode of the fifth season of Steven Universe, sometimes, you just have to let go. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of anxiety and depression
I have the kind of brain where letting go is a lot harder for me to deal with than addressing things head on. It’s funny how anxiety works that way: I might have the same type of anxiety as someone else, but the manner in which it manifests is so drastically different from that same person. Despite being a patient person—you kind of have to be one with the sort of upbringing that I had—I don’t actually like waiting for things. The unknown is the worst part, and it’s why I relate so much to Steven’s struggle with Connie. He knows he just has to wait for her to feel like she can talk to him again, but that act of waiting itself is unbearable.
And then we’ve got Peridot. Again, mental illness isn’t a monolith, but HOLY COW, look at this depiction! Peridot’s inability to move from the same room for days on end is LITERALLY how I coped with depression for most of my 20s. I would often go days without seeing a single person, and I’d spiral in my own head, getting worse and worse, and so I’ve come to discover that focusing on anything—most especially things outside of my home—can help me break a spiral.
So what happens if the thing you use to distract yourself actually makes matters worse? I kept dreading that turn of events as I watched Amethyst, Steven, and Peridot visited Kindergarten in an attempt to reclaim it. That reclamation would also have helped Peridot, since she could have started a garden in a new location, one that held a difficult meaning for her and Amethyst. There was such power in the act, y’all! It didn’t mean that Peridot forgot why she was so sad, nor did it mean that any of these characters were going to forgot what Kindergarten was. But there’s something beautiful in the act of deliberately changing the meaning of a thing so that it empowers you.
Seriously, watching Peridot smile again was GUT-WRENCHING. That was the first time she expressed something close to joy since Lapis left Earth and took Peridot’s home with her. (And really, that’s something I don’t believe I acknowledged as much as I could have: Peridot spent way more time in that home than Lapis did, and Peridot was instrumental in the construction of the barn as a place of comfort. Lapis still took that away from her, and y’all, that has to hurt.) Then, on the train ride back, we watch as Peridot expresses her appreciation that Steven and Amethyst were willing to help her out. AND I WAS JUST SO FULL OF FEELINGS FOR THESE CHARACTERS!
Unsurprisingly, the ending hit me the hardest. It was awful watching Peridot discover that all her sunflowers died. Even worse, the one flower that was growing in Kindgarten wasn’t a flower at all; it was a flower-shaped appendage of a gem who had been hibernating. At that point, it made sense that Peridot gave herself over to despair. Who could blame her? It wasn’t like it was a secret that she was using the Kindergarten gardening project to help her cope with her feelings surrounding Lapis’s departure. Thus, this had to feel like a sign from the universe: nothing would get better. Peridot couldn’t fix this. It was always going to be a disaster.
And what’s fascinating about the final scene of this episode is that the writers ultimately agree with this. You know what? Kindergarten can’t really be reclaimed. So what? What if instead of investing time trying to repair something broken, you did anything else? That’s not something Peridot could have realized at the start of this episode. She was determined to project her problems onto this conflict. However, there can be a power in simply abandoning something rather than reclaiming it. That can be just as freeing.
I am certainly looking forward to seeing where Peridot builds a garden next.
The video for “Back to the Kindergarten” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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