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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A Steven Universe throwback takes two steps forward and one step back

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As its title implies, “Monster Reunion” is a bit of a throwback to season one. That’s not a bad thing, though—the episode has a bit of the sense of discovery and wonder of the back half of season one, when the Gem mythology was just starting to come into focus and it felt like Steven (and the audience) learned something huge about the show’s world every other audience. In this case, that knowledge comes in the form of a more personal narrative of the Gem War, told through the perspective of Centi with characteristic exuberance by Raven Molisee and Paul Villeco.

When Steven’s healing spit returns (which he discovers by fixing a ripped MC Bear Bear), he immediately moves to fulfill his promise and help the Centipeetle bubbled under the temple. The inconsistency/arbitrary nature of his ability returning is a little out of nowhere, but it’s fine as a plot device for kicking off the episode. Also, it’s probably a good thing given how weirdly overpowered Steven has become this season. (Also also, there probably is some reason for Steven’s healing turning on and off that we’ll discover some time during season five or something.)

This provides the funniest, best moment of the episode—and one of the best moments the show has had in a while—when the boarders cut from Steven’s big, round eyes pleading for Garnet to overcome her future vision and let him heal the Centipeetle to the inside of the bubble room. (The way Estelle spits “I lost a battle of will” is one of the best Garnet line readings in ages.) So Steven gives it a shot, slapping his spit onto the monster, and it… partially works.

Villeco and Molisee’s style is a bit broader than the other teams, but that’s perfect for this episode, where all of Centi’s emotions have to be expressed in terms that are almost literally monstrous. They draw her face softer, so that the way her eye narrows when Steven can’t understand her writing sticks out more. She immediately delivers the Gem salute with a practiced tightness of movement. She glares, slashing across the page with a crayon. (The whole thing is literally a sketch, which fits well.) Dee Bradley Baker, non-human voice actor extraordinaire, also does a great job giving the same sensibility a verbal outlet.

The return of the Centipeetle is fitting, too, because “Monster Reunion” is also a classic episode for the Gems. A couple of episodes after her mature moment in “Too Short To Ride,” Amethyst is firmly back in mischievous teen mode, going out of her way to break stuff with Steven (sort of), getting overly excited at the prospect of Centi living with the Gems (mostly to troll Pearl), and playing around with her shapeshifting abilities to become a Centipeetle. When Pearl accuses Amethyst of making fun of the Centipeetles and she expresses exasperation denying it, it’s like a parent telling a child not to misbehave at a funeral. There’s something sad and sacred afoot, and the child isn’t fully aware (or jaded) enough to understand why their behavior might hurt anyone.

It’s not hard to see why the whole thing makes Pearl upset: The semi-healed Centipeetle is incredibly sad. Her partly-human form skirts the line between comfortable and deeply unsettling (especially around the head, where she has seemingly normal Gem hair but the same monstrous head and face). Really, she looks a bit like a Jasper, maybe? Or something similar. We still don’t know exactly what corruption means from a technical (mythological) perspective or how, exactly, the Diamonds enforced it on the Gems remaining on Earth at the end of the war. But Garnet describes the basic idea pretty well: “It’s sort of like if MC Bear Bear didn’t tear the fabric of his arm, but the fabric of his mind.”


Garnet is also perhaps the most maternal she’s been in a while, holding Steven close when she orders Amethyst to poof the Centipeetle, and acting completely understanding when the Gems find Steven with the Centipeetle in her ship. “You can put those puppy dog eyes away, Steven. This ship is their bubble now.” It turns out the Gems tracked Steven and Centi through her seemingly terrible scrawl, which is apparently actually decently legible Gem writing. This is a funny turn for the episode, but I hope that the Gem language doesn’t just become a punchline. (I doubt it will, just feels worth expressing the concern.)

More importantly, Centi seems totally friendly now, even when she’s back in her original form, gleefully writhing around the ship with the remnants of her crew (who seem to recognize her immediately, which is rather sweet given their deformity). The ongoing story of her healing (and Steven’s promise) hasn’t moved as far forward as either of them might have liked, but she’s no monster. Not anymore.


Stray observations:

  • Chaaaaps!
  • Steven: “We’ll just talk through the language of art!”
  • Garnet says that the Centipeetle’s crew didn’t want to leave her behind. Where are they going?
  • Today in great Michaela Dietz line deliveries: “Aw, yeah. Corrupted roommate!”
  • The phrases Steven wants to learn how to write in Gem: “Hi, how you are you?” “Where’s the bathroom?” “I’m sorry.”
  • The closing zoom on the diamond symbol as Steven says “I’m sorry” is a decent piece of evidence for the “Rose is Pink Diamond” theory, if any of you are super into that one.