Sunday, May 26, 2024

Are You My Dad Introduces Our Culprits

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Aw jeez, things are getting serious now. While the past three episodes of this latest Steven Bomb were fairly lighthearted, each ended with a serious plot point to be addressed. Welp, it’s time to address it. It’s also time to meet a couple new gems. We would show a little more excitement, but “Are You My Dad?” took things in a heavy and tense direction.

Bo and Gretchen have fused once again to form Betchen, and we’ll keep it together as best we can in the face of the (body) horror.

Spoilers for 4×24 “Are You My Dad?” below


The episode starts innocently enough, with Steven waiting for Jaime to deliver a pair of Distinguished Khakis in the mail. Amethyst offers him a can of beans to drink. Or trade for a donut. (Oh Amethyst, never change.) Unfortunately the Big Donut doesn’t accept beans as currency. Amethyst promises to wait for Jamie while Steven goes for donuts anyway.

Meanwhile Garnet and Pearl build a sandcastle for a crab couple. Aww.

What good moms.

Steven runs into Sour Cream carrying a stack of flyers outside the Big Donut and finds out Onion has been missing for two days. He and his parents have searched everywhere and can’t find him. The Big Donut is also closed, and Lars and Sadie are not, in fact, in the back watching scary movies like “Dream Ghost” (nerd reference #1). Steven finds out from Sadie’s mother Barb that she never came home after the party with the cool kids. Barb’s not worried, assuming Sadie ran off for another island adventure with her boyfriend (seriously Lars and Sadie, everyone knows). Steven tells her Lars is missing as well.

Barb then tells him Jamie left for the beach house with Steven’s package that morning. Jamie NO!

Steven searches a depressingly empty Beach City for his missing friends and comes across…a new gem! She asks, “Are you my dad?”. We got major Doctor Who “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” vibes from this, especially with the British accent (nerd reference #2). Anyway, she flies away when Steven says he’s not, using a pair of adorable water wings similar to Lapis’. Steven gives chase but can’t catch her. He goes home and describes the gem to the Crystal Gems, who all draw based on his description.

Pearl gets a bit salty when Steven says Connie’s drawing was closest and says they should prepare for a fight, but Steven (super sweet kid that he is) wants to help her find her dad. They split into teams of Garnet, Pearl and Amethyst, and Steven and Connie to search for the gem. While they search, Steven wonders if there could be another gem out there like him, one with a dad.

Connie, awesome (girl)friend that she is, supports him totally and makes up a story theory about the gem being adopted. She also flashes her book snob side when Steven says he’d watch that movie by saying she’d read the book. Book Snob Connie is the best Connie.

Their search takes them into the forest near Beach City where Onion and his friends hung out (nerd references #3 and #4 are in this scene).

Nerd reference #3: Lord of the Rings.

They come across the new gem there and she asks Connie, “Are you my dad”? When Connie offers to help find the gem’s dad, she says, “I’m not looking for Your Dad. I’m looking for My Dad.” Because she’s looking for someone named “My Dad”. See where this is going?

When Steven uses Connie’s name, the gem gets excited and calls for Topaz. Topaz turns out to be a THICC fusion of two Topaz gems with all the missing humans trapped within her fused body. Topaz unfuses and then re-fuses to capture Connie inside her body along with the rest. Oh hello, Steven Universe body horror, we haven’t seen you for a while. Steven tries to help but the smaller gem uses a wand to toss Steven away. She says all they need is My Dad to complete their mission and identifies herself as Aquamarine.


Delightful Little Gems

  • Of course Amethyst drinks beans.
  • “Don’t leave me with another enigma!” Oh, Steven, we feel you.
  • We love that Garnet drew herself.

  • Barb continues to be Bo’s favorite non-Greg parent on this show.
  • Pearl’s drawing was literally crying Lapis from ten thousand fanarts. (Also, drawing makes us think of Centipeetle, and that gives us so many feels.)

Lingering Questions

  • What exactly is the connection between Aquamarines and Lapis Lazuli? The water wings can’t be a coincidence.
  • Why weren’t Lapis and Peridot involved in the drawing contest? 🙁
  • Has the fandom come to agreement on a nickname for Topaz yet? We like “extra thick Lego brick.” She also kind of looks like Dolph Lundgren, but we’re not sure Dolph is a flattering nickname.

Closing Thoughts

Danger, Steve Universe, danger!

Steven Universe fans have grown increasingly impatient since “The Zoo” arc, waiting for the day when Homeworld’s abductions of Beach City citizens would begin. The predictions often included the Diamonds themselves, or some kind of invading army to fight off. You need only look at the predictions for “The New Crystal Gems” to know the expectations.

So what does Betchen think of the duo eventually sent alone to capture Steven’s friends? We LOVE them.

Their designs are wonderful. We’d seen criticisms of Aquamarine based on leaked screencaps, but they vanished immediately, and Topaz is a highly unique design among other gems. Their personalities work well, too. Aquamarine is the smolest, eeriest little jerk in the world and it’s so fun. The image of the kidnapped humans trapped in Topaz’s body was horrific. Cat-fingers, the gem mutants, and now this? When Steven Universe does body horror, it does not do it by halfsies.

The hell, Crewniverse.

Topaz and Aquamarine raise so many questions about current Homeworld and their own purposes. We’ll talk more about them when we cover the finale and do a brief retrospective on the season, but our early impressions are very positive. As good an introduction as they received, though, they come second to the biggest positive of the episode, which was the highly effective tension of Steven’s search for his friends.

We’ve seen criticisms on social medial like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook that dismiss the slower, townie-focused episodes of season 4. Such fans want more of Homeworld threatening Earth. They want more of Jasper, Lapis, and Peridot. In many eyes, each of these characters suffered due to the presence of “filler” episodes based around Beach City citizens. It’s not a perspective Betchen ascribes to; we love the citizens of Beach City and have never perceived their episodes as ‘filler’. Nevertheless, this episode gave us half (with the other half covered in the next episode) of the reason the Crewniverse took this approach to season 4. This was always the plan for the season, to make the abduction of Beach City citizens the ending arc.

Because we spent so much time in and around Beach City, the emptiness of Boardwalk while Steven searched was all the more effective. We know what life is usually like on the Boardwalk. While not a big city, Beach City always has a feeling of activity to it. There’s always someone (usually multiple someones) hanging around the Boardwalk for Steven to talk to. The ambient noise of the arcade or the seagulls seems omnipresent. Thus, the utter silence and desolation of this episode hits in a powerful way.

Remember how you felt when Peridot and Jasper came to Earth back in S1? Remember how anxious you felt watching everyone leave Beach City, not knowing if they would ever come back? The Crewniverse duplicated that same feeling with the dual presence of an empty Beach City and Steven’s increasingly frantic fears for his friends.

In fact, we’d argue they did even better because this time specifically because Homeworld came for Steven’s friends. They were not the same unknowable threat coming for the gems; they were a known danger coming for Beach City itself. And now they have come for Steven’s friends and loved ones. The selfsame characters some would consider ‘filler’ (but not Steven. To Steven, they are part of his extended family). They also have Connie.

We deeply appreciate that no one dismisses Steven’s fears. Although a child, Steven’s concerns are taken seriously by all the adults on the show. Barb doesn’t brush off his statements about Lars, Sadie, or Jaime. Neither do Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. Everyone acknowledges his fear and are willing to take it as a real cause to act. Despite the fact that he is clearly projecting onto Aquamarine given the recent kidnapping of his father, no one assumes this makes his fears groundless. It’s refreshing, even in a children’s show, to see a child’s feelings taken seriously by all the adults around them. What a good example of how adult/child interaction should exist.

(While also showing the continued growth of Steven’s leadership among the gems. They follow his lead now.)

Finally, we have to applaud the Crewniverse for their ability to sneak in not one, not two, but four nerdy references to other pop culture in 11 minutes without it feeling forced or kitschy. Did you catch them all? Lars and Sadie were supposedly watching a film called “Dream Ghost” whose cover gently mocks the Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore film Ghost.


Then there’s the Doctor Who and Lord of the Rings head nods we pointed out above. Then, not long after Connie pokes fun at Aragorn’s search for the hobbits, she meets Aquamarine. Her reaction to Aquamarine getting her name correctly sounds suspiciously like Disney’s Tarzan. That or any number of movies in which first contact between two species happens. Regardless of which film you pin the specific reference for that latter moment to, the headnod is there. All that to say, the Crewniverse are delightful trolls and we love them. In such an eery episode as this, it’s the little things done to counterbalance the heavy atmosphere that prove just how impressive they are as creators.

Tune it tomorrow for the grand finale of the bomb and the season! #We’reNotReady

Images Courtesy of Cartoon Network

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