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How Did Peridot Become My Favorite Character?

Five months (and a mere, what, 10 episodes ago?), I would never have believed that I would even like Peridot, let alone have written something like this. She was entertaining, sure. I loved the whole silly Scooby-Doo villain thing she had going on. And I could see the “Peridemption” possibility despite my reluctance towards it. When “Catch and Release” aired, like most people I was highly entertained by tiny Peridot stripped of her limb enhancers and acting cute beyond words.

So how in the world did she helicopter up my favorite character list so quickly? How does she now arguably perch tall atop it? Such is the question I ask myself now. I suspect more magic by a ridiculously well written show.

 

Comedy is a large part of the attraction, I know. I’m no different from most people who gravitate easily to funny characters, and Peridot is an incredibly funny character. The in-over-her-head-IT tech vibe she gave off at first was endearing, and the way she mimicked Steven’s behavior during the Crystal Gems’ attempts to capture her even more so. Whatever worries  about her character grating on the nerves once she joined our lovable space rocks vanished quickly. She has gotten to the point where it feels like every sentence out of her mouth is a classic (“Barn Mates” and “Hit the Diamond” were basically ‘Peridot’s Greatest Hits.’ I started writing this after “Barn Mates” and “Hit the Diamond” made me feel even better about it.)

Of course it also helps that the humor is so natural to her character, and not lame attempts at forcing one-liners to establish Peridot as the funny character. Her many great funny lines are the product of a writing and animating team that has full grasp of who she is. The humor springs from the situation at hand and the influences on her character, just like it always has. I love that she adopted Amethystisms because she bonded with Amethyst first. This clip is one of the funniest moments of the show while also providing a glimpse into Peridot’s conflicted psyche at the moment. I had a GREAT time watching her try oh so hard to spark a friendship with Lapis, each interaction so funny because of the character development they displayed.

Because ultimately, Steven Universe has not fallen into the easy trap of forcing Peridot into the “comic relief” box. In a show full of complex, incredible characters, she continuously proves to be every bit as complex as any of them.

 

Her arc from her first appearance to now has been a masterpiece. Peridot’s introduction to the show symbolized Homeworld’s evolution into something the Crystal Gems (and Lapis upon her return) no longer understood. She was coldly logical. Instead of a gem weapon she wielded the equivalent of a Mega Man’s buster gun. She wielded command over technology that intimidated the Crystal Gems. She shows no hesitance or remorse to try and kill them in “The Return.” Peridot was a villain through and through.

Yet it didn’t take long for the cracks to show. In retrospect we see Peridot youth. She merely imitated the cold logic she believed the defining trait of her deified leader, Yellow Diamond. Time and new loyalty allowed us to see the youthfulness in Peridot’s behavior during her time as a villain. Together these two elements made her eventual decision to tell off Yellow Diamond perfectly in character rather than some inconsistent break.

Peridot’s youth is a popular topic among the SU fandom. Many believe her to far younger than any of the other gems (I’ve seen claims that Rebecca Sugar confirmed her to be 4-years old, but I have found nothing official saying so). It is pretty clear that if Earth is not her first assignment, it is certainly among the first handful she has ever been assigned. She knows nothing about humans or the Crystal Gems. Everything she knows comes from reports she reads through her arm attachments. She expected an easy mission with no resistance based on her reaction to seeing the Crystal Gems in “Marble Madness” and says as much after an argument with Jasper in “Jail Break.”

It would make sense for a new gem without much experience to gain said experience by simply checking on the Cluster before it emerged. Apparently Peridot assumed the mission would be straight forward.

 

Her youth also shows in her increasingly panicked behavior and immature behavior as she tries to escape Earth. Peridot’s calm, dispassionate demeanor vanishes entirely as she fails again and again to contact Yellow Diamond and leave Earth. She likely never faced a stressful situation, let alone handled one. Her attitude grows more and more childish with every appearance. She copies Steven’s insults. She increasingly insults the Crystal Gems at every opportunity. Anyone who has spent time around children can tell you how they will develop silly little rivalries. Rather than rival the other gems, she instead seems to develop a rivalry with Steven. This shows in her behavior. He is the Crystal Gem she identifies as closest to her equal. The other gems frighten her too much to compete with; she is far more comfortable competing against Steven’s abilities.

I’ve seen complaints about Peridot’s regressing behavior. Fans wonder what happened to the terrifying gem that so ruthlessly tried to kill Steven and friends at Jasper’s side, especially after her capture and help with the Drill. I think a lot of these complaints fail to take into account Peridot’s youth and helplessness. Pretty much her entire identity tied into the technology she wielded.

It is no coincidence that she is at her most terrifying with the immense power of her and Jasper’s ship at her disposal. She identifies in “Back to the Barn” as a natural technician. She takes pride in her logic and rationality. The one glimpse of the old Peridot we get after she joins the Crystal Gems comes when she builds her robot. This is no coincidence. When she lost her limb attachments, she loses both her power and her identity. Who wouldn’t feel frightened and helpless in that situation? She has no gem weapon. Her strength is below that of other gems, as evident by her inability to remove the panel in the Kindergarten that Steven removes easily during “When It Rains.” Without her attachments she had no fighting ability besides weak slaps.

So when she acts light a frightened child in future episodes, the hint is clear. She’s barely more than a child who has lost her only way of defending herself.

Most of all, her youth shows in the constant learning and adaptability process occurring with Peridot. Like a child she is absorbing information and putting it to practical use. This plays a key role in Steven Universe managing to make Peridot my favorite character. Not only does the Homeworld mindset provide a great way to lore dump without it feeling weird or misplaced, that mindset accomplishes what this show does best; challenge harmful messages and stereotypes and shred them to pieces. In many ways Peridot learns about the world in the same way this wonderful show likely hopes its audience will learn about the world.

Yet another reason why she has become my favorite character.

The best example of this occurred with Peridot’s cruelty towards Pearl in “Back to the Barn.” Besides the appreciated lore about Pearls and their function on Homeworld, the entire point of Peridot’s attitude was to show the harm of Homeworld’s society and social barriers. Ultimately, Peridot was right. Pearl is not as good an engineer as she is. It did not make her beliefs right, and the Crystal Gems did not care that Peridot won. Their argument was never that Pearls were superior to Peridots, which is what Peridot seemed to take offense about. The lesson was that no one should be forced into stereotypes that limit their interests and potential.

The others’ support of Pearl for simply trying than her for winning challenges the only society that Peridot had ever known. It makes her question that society. And it teaches the audience to do the same. Pearls can try at whatever they want, and so can anyone else. I think the friendship she sees in this episode kickstarts her transformation going forward. Is it really coincidence that Peridot argues Earth’s potential to Yellow Diamond after seeing what a mere Pearl can accomplish? Every episode afterwards also sees Peridot make a genuine effort to at least try and understand those around her.

This is evident in “Log Date 7 15 2,” where she forms a bond with Garnet and a new understanding of fusion, to the point of a brief attempt to fuse with Garnet. Like all she knows, Peridot’s understanding of fusion formed from the harmful teachings of Homeworld. Fusion happens for war. It is a “cheap tactic to make weak gems stronger.” Fusion serves a specific purpose. The idea of a fusion simply existing is strange to the point of uncomfortably (and clearly meant to suggest homophobia considering the nature of Garnet’s existence). When Pearl and Amethyst fuse to move the drill, this is the final straw for Peridot. Why does Garnet just exist rather than do something of purpose and then un-fuse?

As usual, Steven Universe uses this setup to teach an important lesson about acceptance. An extremely funny shipping joke from earlier in the episode involving the Camp Pining Hearts episode explains Garnet’s relationship to Peridot in a way she understands. This is also an important step in the right direction for Garnet, who before this episode has been very short of temper with Peridot. I love this because Garnet is not totally innocent; while Peridot’s beliefs are clearly wrong, rather than shun her entirely the effort is made to change her mind. The lesson is taught both ways in this episode. Peridot gains an understanding of fusion beyond what Homeworld taught her. She learns acceptance of the bond Ruby and Sapphire have.

Arguably even more importantly, Garnet shows that the best way to combat ignorance is through education. Attitudes cannot change if no effort is made to change them. So much about hate, prejudices, and stereotypes are steeped in a lack of exposure and education. Fear is born from a lack of understanding. This is entirely the case with Peridot. Garnet taking the time to relate her existence to Peridot’s approval of Percy and Pierre is such an important thing to do. So was her brief attempt at fusion with the Peridot afterwards. I thought it was especially important because of Garnet’s less than sensitive response to Peridot’s initial discomfort.

(By the way, the fusion attempt was yet another wonderful lesson in consent by a show that excels in the subject. Peridot made the attempt, was not comfortable, and so they stopped. It was enough for them both that she simply tried and also an example of how fusion does not need to always represent sex.)

So I guess you could say the way Peridot’s learning experience of life on Earth in many ways symbolizes what Steven Universe as a whole is hoping to teach its audience is a big reason I love her character. And the reception and processing of information does not exist solely for lessons when it comes to Peridot. There’s also the previously mentioned copying of Amethyst’s speech, the craving for positive attention, and her constant exuberant energy which reminds you of the children the Crewniverse want watching this show.

Still, I’m no kid. Why would this make Peridot my favorite character and not one clearly more relatable to an adult such as Pearl or Greg? Or one with deeper emotional baggage like Amethyst? Or Steven himself?

 

I suppose there’s also the way Peridot provides a glimpse of the joy of discovery the Crystal Gems once experienced so long ago. She parallels parts of their early days that we have either seen or can infer. How she has grown to understand the beauty of Earth the way Ruby and Sapphire did after fleeing from Blue Diamond. Or how Peridot’s growing sense of individuality is like Pearl’s. So is their loyalty towards the Quartz who planted the seeds. She shares Amethyst’s dependence on humor to fit in and Steven’s childish wonder. She is a proud nerd like Connie (yeah, she’s not a gem, but I’ll stand by this very vague comparison).

Though some of this is also true of Lapis (and the Pearl/Lapis comparisons are definitely stronger in my opinion). And it’s not as if she is some strange amalgamation of every other character that lacks personality of her own. Definitely not that. So again, I am asking myself what it is about Peridot specifically?

Perhaps there is no one thing. Because like real life, things are much more complicated than reducing any one person to a single trait that defines them. What Peridot represents, more than the parallels to other characters or the lessons taught to the audience through her or the always incredibly funny lines constantly flowing from her lips. Peridot is all of this and more, and she is a prime example of the brilliant writing this show is capable of. Every step of her journey has been so carefully and expertly plotted, and I can think of no better way to show anyone interested in watching Steven Universe just how smart and in tune with their characters the amazingly talented Crewniverse so often manages to be.

I understood the reservations from some fans when Peridemption theories began. I agreed with many of those reservations. Thankfully itturned out to be so line with Peridot’s established beliefs and character that I can’t imagine anyone complaining. Peridot did not even realize she was compromised until the moment came to make her ultimate choice. Such is the sign of a great character turn. The character does not so much change as adjust the person they are to a new set of beliefs.

Is even one part of Peridot’s arc not a brilliant example of a character driving the plot? She comes to Earth as a presumably young gem on what is likely her most important mission. When that mission threw an unexpected curve at her, she went back for the best of help. Something someone in her position would be expected to do. Her only priority after her ship crashing was how to escape Earth. When that escape proved impossible, and with Steven’s encouragement, she tried to stop the Cluster.

The things which ultimately changed her mind fit Peridot perfectly. So do the arguments she attempts with Yellow Diamond to save Earth. As I mentioned before, she went to great lengths to mold her behavior after the deified leader she served, which was that of cold, hard logic and maximizing the potential of a planet’s resources. Let’s not overlook that Peridot never truly wanted to save Earth the way the Crystal Gems do. Her rebuke of Yellow Diamond came mere hours after adoringly looking over Homeworld’s plans for Earth without understanding why they disgusted everyone else. She made the call intending to have Yellow Diamond resume those plans.

(Which is something SU fans should remember going forward. Peridot as of now is still acting very much out of self-preservation in her alliance with the Crystal Gems. For all the talk about possible betrayals among the gems, Peridot is definitely the leading candidate in my mind. Though “Hit the Diamond” went quite a ways in lessening that possibility.)

So when Yellow Diamond tossed aside all rationality and logic in her desire to see the Cluster form and Earth destroyed, of course Peridot would have a problem with that.

 

Over time, expect to see her entire idea of potential change with every day she spends on Earth. Earth has shown her a Pearl who can fight and build. It has shown her a fusion that can exist for reasons beyond completing a task. She has seen thunderstorms and heard music. She’s seen a half-human, half-gem hybrid that no one possibly understood. Every day Peridot sees something new which reveals not only the beauty of Earth. She sees the untapped, unusual, immeasurable potential of life.

The answer to why I love Peridot is actually pretty simple; it’s everything about her. On a consistently amazing show that improves by the week, her character arc gives a concentrated dose of everything I love and look forward to with every new episode. Through her we get it all; lore, lessons, humor, character development. Most of all the great beauty and love of all kinds that define Steven Universe.

Maybe others are sick of Peridot, but not me. Somehow, without me noticing until it was over, she became my favorite character.


 

Images courtesy of Cartoon Network

Bo
Written By

Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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