Monday, April 15, 2024

Gem Heist Provides Some Sweet Steven Universe Lore

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Steven Universe‘s latest Bomb got off to a great start with its first two episodes. We met Blue Diamond, got an amazing meta vacation, saw Greg get kidnapped, and watched Steven and the Crystal Gems travel through space to Pink Diamond’s former human zoo. A great start, sure, but can the Crewniverse keep it up? Of course they can! This is Steven freaking Universe, and no Steven Bomb peaks early. The best is always yet to come. Bo and Gretchen have fused into Betchen and are ready to a look at just how “Gem Heist” managed to give fans a lot of things they always wanted. And a few they didn’t realize they wanted.

Spoilers for 4×13 “Gem Heist” below. And this is one episode spoiler haters will want to see unspoiled.

“Gem Heist”

The episode starts with the Roaming Eye docking at the human zoo. Take note of the Red Eye outside; we have so many questions about it. Are they surveillance devices? Was the one sent to Earth some preliminary scouting device ahead of the Cluster mission? The episode just started and already Steven Universe starts throwing minor lore questions at everyone. (More lore! Give us mooooorreee!)

Of course, any thought of the Red Eye vanishes pretty quickly when the Gems see…Amethyst guard! Yep, fully grown Amethysts. We love where this is going already. Though maybe we’re a little worried for our Amethyst. It doesn’t take the Gems long to realize they can’t exactly walk into this zoo and get Greg out. They need a plan. While “Esteban Universidad” is a great idea, someone else has a better one.

Yas queen!

That’s right, Ruby and Sapphire are back! Sapphire says that if they all revert back to the roles they were meant for, they can blend in long enough to find Greg and escape. She will be a Sapphire traveling with her Ruby and Amethyst guard and her personal Pearl to offer a new human for the zoo. Then she says there’s no way this will actually work. But yeah, they just have to play it straight (heh) and change the future!

Seeing our favorite tiny space lesbians is always delightful, as we get tiny little peeks into what Garnet’s headspace is like. More than that, Sapphire stepping up marks a huge moment of growth for her. It wasn’t so long ago that she sat in a motel room letting Ruby stew in her anger over the Sardonyx incidents (2×12 “Keystone Motel”). Or was too distracted flirting with Ruby to fully commit to the Ruby Squad baseball game (3×05 “Hit The Diamond”). For her to actively lead a plan she says will not work, in hopes they can change what she knows will happen is huge. Then again, she knows first hand that the future can be changed; she and Ruby have already done that (2×22 “The Answer”). She’s also freaking adorable and hilarious throughout the episode. Can we see her leading even more shenanigans in the future? (*ba dum tiss*).

We can’t even imagine what it must be like to make the decision she does either. Garnet unfuses in a Homeworld gem station; the last time that happened, Ruby and Sapphire had been forcibly unfused and imprisoned. And “playing the roles they were made for”? The last time they played those roles was when they met (see 2×22 “The Answer”). You know, when Blue Diamond (who might be at the zoo) threatened to shatter Ruby for fusing with Sapphire.

Not to mention Pearl, who has spent several thousand years rejecting her slave heritage only to have to willingly play that role (and be dismissed and insulted the entire time). AND (basically everyone is facing down really triggering stuff here) Amethyst must face her insecurities about blending in and interacting with other Amethysts. This is the girl who has spent much of her life believing she’s a mistake, and now she’s facing a cohort of the non- ‘stunted’ examples of her kind.

UGH. Our poor trash baby.

Hoo boy. Let’s go rescue Greg! Everyone leaves the ship prepared to play their roles for the sake of the mission and it seems to be going rather well. After a bit of mocking from the dual Amethyst guards (keep this in mind), we meet the middle-management villain of the Bomb, one Holly Blue Agate. She introduces herself by verbally and physically abusing the Amethyst guards. (No, she doesn’t stop being such an insufferable jerk at any point.) She freaks out upon seeing Sapphire and snaps into groveling mode, but not before getting in one last dig at the Amethysts for their Earth origin. Keep this in mind, too. Prejudice against Earth gems happens early and often.

While fawning over Sapphire’s generosity for bringing a specimen, Holly Blue confirms that Greg recently arrived. She also acts as if she doesn’t understand what Steven says and treats him like you would an annoying animal. Like we said, Holly Blue is a jerk. We’ll have more to say on her later because, surprisingly, some inferred context exists to explain her jerkiness. At Sapphire’s request, Holly Blue is honored to give “Her Grand Clarity” a tour of the facility, buying time for the Crystal Gems. Excuse Bo while he freaks out a little. Ever since Bismuth mentioned thinkers in their spires he has headcanoned Sapphires as royalty, and this episode basically confirms it. Having a show confirm your headcanons is always exciting.

As the rest of the team moves on, Amethyst is left behind with the other Amethysts to guard the door. Good luck you precious, self-conscious sweetheart you. We hope you make friends.

We don’t like you either, Agate.

Holly Blue provides some background of the facility as they walk and, of course, insults Pearl in the process. Pink Diamond is the original owner of the zoo, which houses all the quartzes produced on Earth. Blue is responsible for keeping the zoo open and Holly Blue apparently runs things in her absence. The humans kept in the huge containment area were very uncooperative (obviously) in the zoo’s early days, but over time they figured out how to change that.

Gretchen would also like to mention how every one of the Crystal Gems goes out of their way to apologize and encourage Pearl while Holly Blue treats her like garbage. It’s awesome. Having to play out the roles they fought so hard to escape is not easy on any of the gems, and Pearl has the most degrading role of them all. Not to say Ruby and Sapphire are happy in this situation; besides their preference not to unfuse, they have to listen to the sycophantic lackey of the Diamond that wanted Ruby shattered prattle about Blue’s “generosity” and “mercy” while insulting their friend. Fun times. Not.

If that wasn’t clear, Ruby’s anger behind Holly Blue’s back clears up any confusion. Blue Diamond hated love, y’all. As sympathetic as she was in “Steven’s Dream,” let’s not forget that.

Holly Blue’s praise of her Diamond raises the question of just when Blue’s mercy and generosity began. Is this her Homeworld propaganda, much like Yellow Diamond’s unflinching rationality Peridot went on and on about? Or, did Blue Diamond change with Pink Diamond’s death? Keeping the zoo operating after thousands of years directly contradicts Homeworld’s apparent effort to forget Pink Diamond. She was removed from the Homeworld insignia. The years afterward are referred to as Era 2. None of the Era 2 Rubies even knew who she was. It’s possible her shattering changed Blue into a different person than Ruby and Sapphire remember.

Anyway, back to our scheduled programming. Holly Blue leads our ragtag band to a service door leading inside the human habitat. After a terrible excuse from Ruby (“Explosion!”) and obvious conspiratorial winking, Sapphire manages to get the jerk away from the door. Not before Holly Blue gets in a dig at Rubies, though. Stupid jerk. What follows is one of our favorite moments of the episode. Bo loves that they actually fail to get the door open, while Gretchen can relate to Ruby’s low frustration tolerance. We’re not sure why Ruby thought running up the door would open it. Hey, she’s not the thinker of the group.

I feel this deep in my soul. – Gretchen

Being the Earth-hating bigot she is, though, Holly Blue assumed the scorch footprints on the door belonged to an Amethyst. Aka, an “otherwise useless quartz [Pink Diamond] produced on Earth.” We hate her.

Speaking of, two Amethysts show up with the bad news that Blue Diamond is coming back to the zoo. Holly Blue thanks them for this news by abusing and insulting them. Seriously, how do these Amethysts take this? They must be more like our Amethyst than we realize to willingly let someone put them down so much. Perhaps all Amethysts come with a built in complex about their self worth and an innate desire to please authority? Amethyst might fit in here better than we thought. It was kind of funny (in a referential way) that Holly Blue calls them useless chunks of earth, you know, clods.

The Amethysts take Steven away and toss him in a chute to join the other humans. He falls onto a conveyer belt where a bunch of appendages exactly like Peridot’s limb enhancement fingers poke, prod, and strip him before giving him a fancy new loincloth and earrings. There’s disagreement about whether Peridots are controlling these or not. We think they are, mainly because we want to see more Peridots. If not, it would explain how Steven’s gem went unnoticed. Seriously, he was stripped down to his underpants. How did someone not see the shiny pink quartz gem in his belly button? Also, remember the picture taken of him. That has to matter at some point, doesn’t it?

Eventually Steven ends up in a lake, and he sees Greg sitting with two other humans on the shore. It took a while, but mission accomplished! Well, they found Dad Universe anyway. It’s a start.

Delightful Little Gems

  • Given Holly Blue’s freakout at the footprints on the door, we like to think that the Amethysts purposefully mess things up just to see Holly Blue freak out. Kind of like kids pranking the mean principal.
  • Love that Steven Universe continues to buck gender norms by giving all the humans (Greg and Steven included) the same fancy loincloths and earrings.

Lingering Questions

  • Why is Jasper not one of the gems guarding the zoo? How did she come to have the authority she has? She lead a mission to Earth with Peridot after all. Which raises another question. Why is she working for Yellow? She appears to be the only Earth gem not stationed at the zoo.
  • Was Rose produced on Earth, too?

Closing Thoughts

“Gem Heist” gave us a lot of intriguing insights into the Homeworld caste system, as well as where Earth gems rank in it (hint: near the bottom). The personal development we see this episode focused on how capable the Crystal Gems are at holding in their frustration, discomfort, and hurt in the face of the social system that disregards them all. In Jasper’s words (2×15 “The Return”),

“Some lost, defective Pearl, a puny overcooked runt, and this shameless display?”

Ruby, Sapphire, Pearl, and Amethyst willingly walked into a situation that reminded them of their own deepest fears and insecurities. They willingly accepted restrictive and, in Ruby and Pearl’s case demeaning, roles that they had fought to be free of. And, mind you, this is after Garnet had been so afraid to face Blue and get them all caught that she refused to help Steven find the palanquin. Yet here she is willingly facing eerily similar circumstances. Even after Sapphire indicates it probably won’t work, they’re all willing to keep going. All to help Steven and rescue Greg. Excuse us while we go ugly cry in the corner because this gives us all the feels.

Tune in tomorrow for “The Zoo”!

Betchen out.

Images Courtesy of Cartoon Network

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