Expanding the world of Steven Universe is probably necessary. We’ve spent a lot of time with the Crystal Gems, and have a pretty good idea of who they are and how they work (emotionally speaking).So in order to introduce something fresh (and to give the other Gems people to bounce off of, and reveal new parts of themselves), we need new Gems. That’s part of why the Peridot story has been so successful, but running through the same beats with different Gems presents the possibility of stagnation. Thankfully, “Same Old World” suggests we’re not quite there yet, or at least that it won’t be a problem with Lapis Lazuli.
Out of all the non-villainous Gems, we’ve spent the least amount of time with Lapis. (Even Rose has appeared more and she isn’t even alive, strictly speaking.) As Steven notes, Lapis only really shows up when something terrible is happening, which hasn’t given us a lot of time to get to know her. Her wry reply to Steven, “That’s just how it is with me,” serves two purposes: giving her a sense of humor, and suggesting that… something bad will happen. At first, it seems like we might be getting a PTSD story about the result of Lapis’ abusive fusion with Jasper, with Lapis flying off to avoid dealing with what happen to her. That story might come later (Garnet alludes to it), but instead we get a bit of Lapis’ backstory, as well as a more forward-looking glimpse at the stranded Gem addressing the question of what she should do next.
First, though, there’s a decent amount of the lower-key humor that was missing from the non-watermelon parts of “Super Watermelon Island” and “Gem Drill.” Peridot somehow comes dangerously close to running with the episode again, bringing an adorable childish enthusiasm to recounting the story of the Cluster. Steven, meanwhile, attempts to answer an important question: where did Lion go? When Steven pretends to be holding a ham for Lion and then says, “Whoops, I dropped it and it fell out of existence,” it’s giving space for the kind of weird, practically timeless shenanigans that we haven’t had in the last few episodes. Greg even shows up for a moment.
Still, for the most part, “Same Old World” is sweet, mournful, and understanding, from Garnet assuaging Steven’s concern for Lapis to… well, Steven’s concern for Lapis. Of course Steven is more interested in whether his friend is okay than in celebrating the fact that he saved the world—when he discovers that Lapis is a bit lost, he suggests without hesitation that they take off to explore the world.
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The ensuing tour does a great job of showing something that Steven Universe has until now mostly hinted at: the diversity and borderline-mystical quality of life on Earth. The Gems rarely interact with organic life as anything other than a nuisance, but here Lapis discovers that life on Earth ranges from the open tranquility of the country to the throbbing metropolis of Empire City to the pollution-clogged scream factories of Jersey to the quiet beauty of the sky.
This whole sequence is really pleasant, though Steven’s pitch for the urban sitcom version of Lapis is infuriating in that it just makes me want that show to exist. Lamar Abrams and Katie Mitroff do an excellent of showing what those other locales might look like within a world that’s been visually reverse-engineered for “weird beach town.” Will we ever spend a lot of time in Empire City? Maybe! It doesn’t really matter. Especially because there’s more important stuff happening at the Galaxy Warp.
Here, we finally get at least a bit of Lapis’ origin. Poofed in the middle of a battle between Home World and the Crystal Gems, Lapis was treated as an enemy combatant by Home World, then left behind until she was discovered and treated as an enemy combatant again, but on the other side. (Has Lapis literally ever gotten a break?) This story leaves a few open questions (namely: what was Lapis doing on her visit to Earth?), but for the most part it serves to highlight what makes Lapis different. The Gems are stuck on Earth, but it’s because they chose to stay, and consciously rebelled against Home World (even Peridot eventually did this!). Lapis is just… stuck. Jennifer Paz does an excellent job articulating Lapis’ essential victimhood, while still managing to make her more coolly detached than all the other Gems. (Compare her to Peridot’s shouting earlier in the episode.)
Steven’s ultimate advice to Lapis is this: she can choose to stay on Earth and make a life that may, eventually, come to feel like her own. It’s good advice, well-articulated and moving. But “Same Old World” never manages to quite justify why Lapis would want to stay here here, at the barn with the Gems who had kept her prisoner for thousands of years. It doesn’t really matter though, because it’s clear that her coolness and ability to resist the occasional sappiness that comes hand in hand with most Gem interaction will come in handy as a contrast to the of the Gems. Where Peridot’s clinical dedication provided one way for the Gems to define themselves, Lapis’ detachment will prove another. And it’ll be even more fun to see how the Gems bounce off each other now that Peridot and Lapis have to fight for the barn.
- “And Steven was all… my feelings!”
- “No thanks. I have seen what goes on in there.” So much for more Peridot-toilet gifs.
- “You’d like it in Jersey. People here seem to hate the Earth too!” Making jokes about New Jersey feels outdated enough to actually be funny again, especially since it basically comes out of nowhere.
- I assume it’s a wind thing but does Steven’s hair look… big this episode?
- Lapis’ water wings continue to not make any sense. But they are awesome.
- Steven being comfortable with Lapis leaving is one of the better moments in the episode. It’d be easy to imagine him having a tantrum, but Steven has truly become more empathetic and kind than pretty much every human in existence.