A few of you asked for my opinion of the recent Steven Universe episodes ‘The Return’ and ‘Jail Break’, and that’s mainly cause I wrote this: SUPER HAPPY FUN LINK For those not clicking on the super happy fun link for some reason, in short, I called the Ruby + Sapphire twist MONTHS in advance. And that’s just when I posted my theory to devianART. I’ll be giving my thoughts on all that in detail, but first I want to touch on some of the other points of the episodes.
I really liked the dynamic in the beginning between Steven, Greg, and the Gems. Greg has always been concerned about Steven doing Gem stuff, like any father would be, but here we really get a window into his stance on everything. I imagine Rose having a lot of emotional baggage regarding the Gem War, stuff she wouldn’t share with the other Gems at length in order to save face; look like a strong leader. That leaves Greg as her emotional confidant, and frankly, there was probably some pretty heavy stuff in there. Greg blurting out “aliens!” like it was some racial slur he always has to remind himself not to use was really effective. Gave some unique insight into the Gems as well.
This episode also made for a great continuation of ‘Political Power’, from Garnet’s reminder to Steven that he inspires the people of Beach City, to Steven calling in political favors from Mayor Dewey, and even the laser light cannons under the house get used! Talk about Chekhov’s guns! And most of all, I think Steven going back and saving his friends was the moment where he REALLY became a Crystal Gem. He’s had plenty of “I’m one of you guys” moments, but this is where he cemented his place; where he earned his place.
It took me a little while to realize this, but I’ve decided I LOVE Jasper, and the reason for that is simple: she’s a villain! One of the few weak areas I found in Steven Universe from the very beginning was the lack of any villains, just monsters or vaguely defined threats or forces of nature. And don’t get me wrong, those are great! But I want to see our heroes banter with somebody, get taunted at by something! I wanted a personal, malicious force putting the Gems at their mercy, and we got all of that in Jasper! She hit all the right character notes, and the promise of more to come from her namedropping a ‘Yellow Diamond’ leaves me feeling hopeful(not to mention Peridot being loose on Earth somewhere!). Simply put, you love to hate her, and I love her for it.
Speaking of taunts and bantering! ‘Stronger Than You’ is by far my favorite song in the series, beating out ‘Strong in the Real Way’ by a mile. It hits all the right notes(pun intended). I recall how I felt when it started: I had been told in advance Garnet had a song, and despite the episode winding down it caught me off guard; the transition into it was so seamless, and I had a legitimate “is this really happening right now?” moment. As the song played on a wave of involuntary fist pumps overcame me and my shoulder was sore for the rest of the day. Estelle’s first full song in the show! I always complained that the Gems didn't sing more, seeing as all their voice actresses were cast partially because of their singing background. Now that I know they were saving Garnet's first full song for this, it was WELL worth the wait! The flow and rhythm were perfect, the fight was epic, and the symbolism/metaphor about fusion was well integrated. I read in an interview the song was supposed to encapsulate Garnet’s euphoria at being back together, to the point where she knew she couldn’t lose. Mission accomplished! Props to Rebecca Sugar for being such an amazing composer, as well as for surrounding herself with such capable and talented people who pulled this song off, and that includes the wonderful Miss Estelle!
Speaking of fusion! Ok, almost at Ruby and Sapphire. First, I wanna bring up probably the only thing that irked me about this episode. Lapis’ sacrifice for Steven, while incredibly noble, was completely pointless! We just saw Garnet take on and defeat a full-powered Jasper, and we’ve seen Lapis working at half her normal power level fight the Crystal Gems to a standstill. There was no reason for her to have to take Jasper out in the totally badass way she did. I can forgive it, though. Think about things from Lapis’ perspective: she (presumably) fought in a war against her own people, was trapped in a mirror for thousands of years, and was freed only to be immediately attacked by her own people; her jailers, no less! Just wanting to go home, Lapis almost destroys the ecosystem of an entire planet, only to be helped by someone allied with her enemies, forcing her to question her beliefs. After flying through the void of space(which is very big and scary, I’m told), she finally gets home, only to find it nothing like how she remembers it, and almost immediately be interrogated and imprisoned by her own people yet again, and forced to go back to the place she fought to get away from. Top that off with Steven assuring her he’d come back for her, only to feel the spaceship begin to crash, making her think she’s either been left for dead or her only friend in the Universe(heh, see what I did there?) is dead. With a recent history like that, I can forgive her poor problem-solving skills.
Ok, finally, the main event! I really liked Ruby and Sapphire. Ok, review over.
Aha, of course I’m kidding. Ruby and Sapphire really are great, though, and I really hope we see more of them individually in the future. It’s an interesting occurrence; when two Gems fuse and make a new personality it’s fairly straightforward: they’re an amalgam of everything both the Gems are. Here though, we’ve gotten to know Garnet all this time as one person, and a fairly subdued person at that. Exploring what parts of her are Ruby and which parts are Sapphire would be really interesting, even if just for one episode. Also, before these episodes I was always kinda married to the idea that they weren’t always Garnet, just liked to become her often, but when Rose died neither of them felt strong enough to deal with the grief individually. While I still like this idea, and it may be true still, but I also really like the way the show portrayed it: they just love being together so much.
I was surprised by how many of my ideas regarding the two actually appeared in the episode. We saw Sugulite split back into two Gems when she got injured, in a similar way to how we’ve seen single Gems retreat into their gems when injured, so I thought a cool way to reveal them would be Garnet losing in a fight against a Homeworld Gem. That kinda happened! I also envisioned scenario where the Crystal Gems are taken to Homeworld(that almost happened!) and being put on trial; think the opening of Superman II. The mediator would then directly address them and say Gems were not to be fused whilst on trial, to the confusion of Steven and the audience. Garnet refuses to acknowledge the statement and gets zapped by Gem technology forcing her to become Ruby and Sapphire. In other words, Homeworld Gem + Homeworld tech = Ruby and Sapphire. Sounds pretty close to me! And finally, I always thought it would be cool if one member of the fusion had hair that resembled what Garnet’s was like in the original pilot. Take a look at it and then look at Sapphire’s hair and tell me they don’t look similar. I think that’s a really neat callback.
I know I’m being a big blowhard by this point. What more needs saying! A lot of people made jokes after these episodes aired about me being able to see the future. Well, I knew from the very beginning that Steven Universe was going to be a hit, and did it hit hard! Steven once said he’s paid in the smiles he puts on people’s faces, and I’m happy to help pay his salary. I’ve logged a lot of hours watching Steven Universe, and they’re hours well spent, hands down.
For those of you who are interested, prior to these episodes coming out, I worked with a lovely artist named to create our own designs for Ruby and Sapphire. While I loved the designs from the show, I think these are pretty cool too! Original Sketches | After some of my notes | Final Version(I think Ruby here looks the teeniest bit like Rebecca Sugar)
I wrote a Steven Universe parody about Ruby and Sapphire, check it out here
Another Jail Break parody I did can be seen here