009 – Steven Universe, “Log Date 7 15 2”

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Here we are at the end of the week. Five brand new episodes of Steven Universe have come and gone, and who knows when we’ll get more (for reference – the last chunk of episodes aired in September and October). Rebecca Sugar and her dedicated crew put great effort into these 55 minutes (give or take), and “Log Date 7 15 2” was an excellent way to cap it all off.

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Picking up seemingly moments after “Message Received,” Peridot (Shelby Rabara) is in a weird daze following her incredible telling off of her now-former boss, Yellow Diamond. Driven to hysterics by a mixture of fear and pride, Garnet (Estelle) comes to the rescue in an attempt to make her feel better. We have seen episodes in which Peridot bonds with Pearl (Deedee Magno) and Amethyst (Michaela Dietz), so it was only a matter of time before we got an episode about her and Garnet. Writers/storyboard artists Hilary Florido and and Lauren Zuke get a little creative with it though, using Peridot’s audio diary to zoom Steven (Zach Callison) and the viewer through the last month or so of Peridot’s acclimatization to the eccentricities of Earth as well as her interactions with the de facto leader of the Crystal Gems.

We come away from the episode with the sense that Garnet has been a nurturing and understanding presence through Peridot’s maturation process, providing not only encouragement, but also patience and wisdom in response to Peridot’s ignorance about the Earth and even Garnet’s very nature. Remember, Gem fusion is the show’s metaphor for intimacy, and Garnet is the permanent fusion of two Gems – basically a constant reminder of something Peridot has always considered disgusting or inappropriate. Garnet even offers to teach Peridot about fusion firsthand, in one of the episode’s charming moments.

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All of this leads to some really nice interactions, but it does undermine Garnet’s behavior in “It Could’ve Been Great” and “Message Received” – not to mention the fact that some of the “teaching Peridot about life” stuff feels redundant after the opening of former. Garnet is so disappointed with Peridot’s seeming betrayal in “It Could’ve Been Great,” but this Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead-ish episode of the show depicts a Garnet who totally understands Peridot’s wariness to accept practices that have become de rigueur on Earth since the Crystal Gems sent the Homeworld Gems packing. So then why is so offended and angry when Peridot produces more evidence of this same behavior on the Moon? I chalk it up to a rare moment of poor planning by the crew, as I can’t really find a way to justify it for the character based on what the show has presented.

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But from a pure enjoyment angle, the episode works really well. Rabara and Estelle lend really strong voice work to the episode; and while there is some annoying self-aware subtext business at about the halfway point, the payoff to that scene ends up being really sweet. The whole episode is sweet, and honestly that adjective probably describes the series best: Steven Universe is a really sweet show. I hope that doesn’t read as condescending or negative, because I really do mean it to be complimentary. The modern media landscape is full of irony and sarcasm – and goodness knows I only add another tiny voice to that massive tidal wave of apathetic madness – so it’s always refreshing to encounter such earnest entertainment that still manages to be funny and resonant. Only now, at the end of this week do I realize that I could have just written “[episode name here] is sweet” everyday and it would have been not only accurate but probably more profound than any of the thousands of words I have spewed out instead.

“Log Date 7 15 2” is another really strong episode of Steven Universe (it almost seems as though there are never bad ones), and continuity issues aside, it receives four out of five green Canadian flags:

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