Damn, these have been some good episodes, haven’t they?
One of the many awesome things about the second Steven Bomb has been the way it engages with our questions left over from the end of the first. “Keep It Together” starts to delve into the nature of Garnet’s fusion. “Sworn To The Sword” is perhaps even more of a definitive answer than “Full Disclosure” to how, exactly, Steven and Connie will deal with the new excitement from his magical life. “We Need To Talk,” with its apparently ambiguous ending (I didn’t read it that way, but the comments yesterday were pretty interesting on what it might mean) delves deeper into what makes Steven so special, and why he was capable of getting through the Gem field. And, of course, “Rising Tides/Crashing Skies” looks at how the residents of Beach City responded to the invasion.
“Chille Tid” finds the Gems setting out to solve perhaps the most important mystery of all: What happened to Malachite? (Or, I should say, Jasper and Lapis’ fusion, since Steven and the Gems don’t find out she’s called Malachite until the end of this episode.) And they do it through a slumber party. When we enter the episode, the team is wearing life jackets (“Safety is no punchline, Pearl.”) and hunting through the ocean. The immediacy of the search seems a little forced, since we’ve had several episodes without finding the monster in the ocean actually being a priority. At a certain point you have to just kind of accept that this is the way the show works now, where we’ll check on this plot when it makes sense, and know it’s in the back of everyone’s mind the rest of the time. But that doesn’t help all that much, at least not unless you’re fully acclimated to the show’s plot rhythms.
Anyway, this allows us to see the Gems relating to the concept of sleep and rest—something that is fundamentally human, and therefore, um, alien to the team. Amethyst, who we know enjoys physiological activities for their own sakes, of course takes to sleeping easily. Garnet, as we discover at the end of the episode, can sleep like a champion. (And has the best magic life jacket, that she uses to replace the one Steven gives her.) But Pearl, who appears to have never been asleep in her life, has the hardest time understanding what giving up her nights would be like. This makes sense, at least as a callback to Pearl watching Steven sleep. (Can you imagine what it must be like to have remained awake for several thousand years?) And, of course, we get to spend a lot of time in Steven’s dreams.
Dream logic is notoriously difficult to capture effectively in visual media, and its use here is further complicated by the nature of the connection between Steven and Lapis. Some of these attempts to capture Steven’s dreams are unsuccessful—the last sequence of Steven floating past all of the possible things he could think about in his dream falls a little flat—but others are fantastic, surreal, funny, and creepy in all the right ways. Jasper’s initial formation as a mouth is great, as is the use of subtle visual transitions and Steven’s attempt to pull a potato out of his pocket and getting a fish instead. (Just because you’re aware of a dream doesn’t mean you can control it!) And, of course, pretty much everything about Steven’s first dream, the one that gives the episode its name, is incredible.
The Steven Universe sitcom! I can’t say enough about how well done this sequence is, from the way the voice actors nail broad, multicam sitcom-style variations on their normal line deliveries to the uncomfortable surreality of the boundaries of the “set.” There is a lot of well-done off-ness here, like the fact that the Gems don’t have gems and cool teen Garnet only has two eyes. “Chille tid” turns out to be Garnet’s catchphrase in the sitcom Steven dreams up, before he starts subconsciously interacting with Lapis. (My understanding is that this means “chilling time” in some language I don’t know? I think the phrase has been used on Regular Show at least once, so it might be a Cartoon Network in-joke.) Garnet is just hilarious here, telling “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” (Including fuse?) And it builds perfectly to the reveal of Lapis in stark color, along with the way that what at first sounds like a canned studio laughter or gasping transforms back into the show’s score, almost literally letting the dream fall away.
Nearly everything about Lapis’ appearance in this episode is excellent, from the way it’s unclear at first if she’s real to her emergence from the depths, fueled by her water wings, after getting dragged under by Jasper within their mind-fusion. This is a pretty good way of visualizing an internal conflict, particularly as “Chille Tid” allows the dream space to become clearer and clearer until Steven finally makes it into the most explicit representation of Malachite’s fusion: an open, dark, watery space that houses dueling versions of the Gems’ wills. This is, at least, how Steven perceives his connection with Lapis, who once again rebuffs him, yelling, “Just let me do this for you.” This, of course, calls back to the beginning of this week—does Lapis perceive herself as dedicated to Steven’s cause? Does she have a similar defect to Pearl? There’s a lot we don’t know about Lapis, including why, exactly, she was trapped in that mirror (pretty sure we don’t know that, right?), and I’m excited to think through what that connection might mean.
It also gives us a good in-road to talking about Pearl, who is mostly used as a source of humor in this episode, although, as always, there’s a serious core underneath. Pearl’s dream of herself and Rose, surfing on a giant slice of pizza with a cartoon sun and moon until it turns out Rose is actually Greg, is very funny, but also quite sad. We’ve gotten enough indications of Pearl’s feelings for her leader that we’re just about due for the episode explaining their relationship in at least slightly more detail, but I imagine that what we’ll find is a lot sadder than pizza surfing. No wonder she doesn’t dream.
The mission is serious, but the subject matter allows for a lot of humor, like the amazing shot of the Gems looking tired. (Cue Garnet: “We look awesome.”) And when Steven needs to go back asleep to find Lapis, his and Amethyst’s sly enthusiasm amid shouting that Pearl needs to talk about her dream is priceless. To avoid this just turning into the strays (more there, too), I’ll also say that this humor is also a little dreamlike in the way it seems to slightly elide even the reality of the show. Like Steven says, dreams are weird and you can’t quite understand them unless you’re living them. We’re living the dream where Steven gets to say stuff like, “Dogcopter meowed at me and was just not that interested in what I had to say (and I might have some issues I need to work out), but Lapis!”
Lapis indeed. The subconscious transformation of Lapis and Jasper into Malachite is… interesting. We still don’t understand fusion quite well enough to get what’s going on, but my inclination is to say that this means that Jasper and Lapis are fundamentally ceasing to exist, the way that Garnet forgets who Ruby and Sapphire used to be. Names for Malachite’s right hand, and her left. In that case, really have no idea what an insanely conflicted, hate-fueled Malachite will do if she ever gets free, and I don’t think the Gems quite do either. While we chew on this, it’s worth pointing out one more time that Steven is fundamentally right in his dealings with Lapis, who he truly considers his friend. It’s really great to see him controlling what becomes a mission, and it might prove all the difference if the sleeping aquatic monster ever breaks free.
- Steven Universe is filmed before a live studio audience, courtesy Greg.
- “I hope the rumors about Dogcopter in the tabloids aren’t true.” Let’s guess what the rumors are. Does Dogcopter just not like his fans?
- “I win.” GARNET.
- “Sleep is a curse, and yet a curse I need to live. Steven Universe.” — Steven Universe, on Steven Universe.
- Sorry this one is a little on the late side! Was going to finish the review this morning and got caught up in some other stuff. But it’s been great spending this Steven Bomb with you guys. Hope this one isn’t too messy. Very read to take a Garnet-style—zzzzzzz.