Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl are all ridiculously well-defined now, which is one of the most impressive things about the show. In the amount of screen time that would constitute about a sitcom season and a half, each of the Gems has gotten a ton of attention from the writers and storyboard artists, and has revealed a number of distinct, but related, sides to their personality. It makes sense, then, that the introduction of Peridot takes up a huge portion of the show’s character development oxygen—we’ve been exposed to her primarily as a villain, which means that nearly every interaction she has with someone that doesn’t end in violence (and even the ones that do) are opportunities to learn more about her.
So far, perhaps Peridot’s most distinct characterization is her childishness, something we saw last week in her petty rivalry with Pearl, and which becomes even more explicit this week when Pearl calls her out for having a tantrum. Consider Peridot’s unwillingness to actually, explicitly name what Garnet is, a good joke that is also super interesting—given the element of sexual metaphor inherent in fusion, Peridot is basically a child unwilling to say something dirty, which says quite a bit about how the other Gems back on the home planet view fusion. (Steven is similarly embarrassed when Peridot starts talking about his poop, which is weird because poop is funny.)
Accordingly, a lot of the stuff that happens with Peridot this week is pretty funny, precisely because she doesn’t really understand anything about the world, not even on the level Steven does. Amethyst and Steven get a lot of humor out of the fact that she doesn’t know the English words for basic objects, or that she describes them in bizarre, functional terms, but that’s not the only humor that comes out of Peridot. Take the pacing of Peridot asking Garnet to unfuse, then Garnet silently tying Peridot to a post and walking away, which is just delightful, somehow leisurely even though the episode only has a brief running time. (And Peridot’s reaction to Garnet demanding she get a chaperone is excellent, and will hopefully pay off in what I can only assume is the inevitable Garnet-Peridot episode.)
Peridot “having free reign of the place” makes Garnet uncomfortable, as it should—just a few days (?) ago, she was trying to take down the Gems. Still, it’s actually kind of incredible how quickly Pearl has apparently warmed to working with Peridot, just a couple of episodes after accepting her on to the team. Peridot doesn’t want to “listen” to Pearl, even when she’s being asked for her input by the other Gem, but she’s somehow endeared herself to the other technician (this is a testament to the quality of Shelby Rabara’s voice acting, which has been top-notch these past few episodes).
Other than slowly watching those dynamics continue to shift, for the team to continue to adjust to a new member, not much happens in this episode. There’s no big action sequence. The closest thing we get is a piece of machinery slightly malfunctioning. Instead, there’s just a long buildup of emotional fireworks between Amethyst and Peridot, which upends the seemingly sleepy episode once Peridot goes “Too Far.”
Storyboard team Hilary Florido and Lauren Zuke do great work with Amethyst and Peridot’s fighting, which builds out from Amethyst teasing Peridot about not knowing how to use words to something much deeper. When Peridot calls Amethyst defective, it doesn’t actually seem quite as cruel as it eventually becomes. After all, Peridot thinks she’s just stating facts in weird ways, which is essentially how she engaged in humor to make Amethyst happy earlier in the episode. Still, she tells us something we didn’t quite know: Quartzes are types of Gems that serve as warriors, and Amethyst took too long to emerge from her hole, so she’s smaller and less powerful than she would ordinarily be as a Home World Gem, something that ties into her insecurities from episodes like “On The Run.” It’s a little shocking that Amethyst didn’t know this stuff, given Pearl, Garnet, and Rose’s histories on Home World—but, then again, Amethyst is basically a baby compared to the other Gems.
Maybe that’s why, the rest of the time, the pair get along surprisingly well. From Peridot repeatedly calling Amethyst “annoying”(before admitting she’s a “strong, singular, fully functional soldier”) to Amethyst calling Peridot “Peri,” there’s a certain familiarity at play that comes in part because they’re both so immature (and find each other fascinating). (Yes, I know what you want to talk about here, we’ll get to it.) Toward the end of the episode, Peridot waves frantically at Amethyst, trying to get her attention like they’re standing across the playground. Peridot uses words like“Gemetically speaking,” which just shows that she doesn’t quite understand humor, but is genuinely trying to fit in and get Amethyst to like her. And most notably, Peridot escapes from the cord she’s tied with in order to save Amethyst.
Okay, here we go: The close looks at Amethyst and Peridot’s eyes after the mishap with the drill, as well as their positioning, is obviously sexual/romantic. Is Peridot’s awakening as her own Gem going to involve some sort of relationship with Amethyst? It’s possible. Is there going to be a ton of theorizing about this that I am going to have a really difficult time dealing with? Almost certainly. Look: There’s no way not to read this at least somewhat romantic, particularly since it’s very reminiscent (consciously, I expect) of Steven and Connie’s initial connection. But I’m more than content to let this play out in the background of the show, and maybe take a place of prominence when we get to the Cluster. It’s just a lot to deal with, especially since Garnet is a romantic entanglement, and Pearl still pines for Rose. It’ll be great to see this kind of relationship play out around the edges of Steven Universe’s normal treatment of this territory, but there’s something a little abrupt about it that seems to demand patience.
Thankfully, Peridot doesn’t appear anywhere near ready to speak her mind on the issue. Or, at least, not to anyone’s face, as she uses her recorder to convey a message to Amethyst that provides the biggest gut-punch ending the show has had in some time. On television, a cassette recorder is often used as a way of allowing characters to talk to themselves, engaging in something like voiceover without actually resorting to that device—consider something like Coop’s notes to “Diane” on Twin Peaks.
Peridot is engaged in this kind of self-involvement, like a child, at the beginning of the episode. It’s a way for Peridot to avoid actually speaking for herself, a way for her to remain a child. (Note that the recorder even has a sticker with the words “Keep out” scrawled across.) But when she uses the recorder as a communication tool, a way to convey an admission of her failures, of what we might call her humanity, the simple piece of technology takes on a new significance. In turn, the apology is a way of acknowledging Amethyst’s humanity, and of recognizing that Peridot’s actions have the capacity to damage her. “I want to understand. I’m sorry,” she says, essentially vocalizing the theme of the entire show. And she’s rewarded with a smile—she feels big, and so do we.
- “The Pearl here has exhibited an aptitude for engineering that I begrudgingly respect. Though that doesn’t explain the spontaneous singing. Crying. Singing while crying.” Steven and Amethyst’s reactions to this last bit are fantastic.
- A full dictionary of Peridot: Screwdriver = leverage optimizer. Nose = sense sponge. Eye = vision sphere. Hands = touch stumps. Feet = gravity connectors. And… that’s your butt!
- “This drill is pure irony!” “Actually, it’s mostly carbonite.”
- “It’s okay! Everything’s okay! It was just a drill.” Okay, Steven. Nice one.