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Erin Rewatches Steven Universe: s02, e21-22 February 19, 2016

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
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Slowing this ride down as we careen toward the finish line, because I have way too much to say about The Answer.

rewatch on Dreamwidth | rewatch on Tumblr

Spoilers may include everything, especially now that we’ve hit the latest Stevenbomb.

s01e21 Too Far

  • “Singing…crying…singing while crying.” Classic.
  • Oh, hey, I’d forgotten this detail of the Periodot-disability idea: she mentioned no longer having her “log” because she’s lost her arm attachments, so Steven gives her the tape recorder as a replacement.
  • This is the episode where Peridot identifies Amethyst as “fully functional, [but] defective” (in that she should be of a height with Jasper and Rose). The same height that counts as average for a Ruby is the equivalent of dwarfism for an Amethyst. And yet, that doesn’t affect how Peridot admires her or looks to her as a natural authority. It would add a sweet angle to that relationship if there’s some identification going on there — even though Peridot doesn’t exactly make it clear.
  • It also suggests that Homeworld’s attitudes towards disability are more complicated and varied than Jasper’s general disdain (for all Gems that are weaker than her, really, whether it’s by being “defective” — our Pearl — or just generally “weak” — all Rubies).
  • Back when Ruby and Sapphire first fused, Gem society saw it as scandalous because they were two different species, and that’s not how it’s supposed to work. But today, Peridot never mentions that — she’s only unnerved because Garnet is a “permafusion” and a “war machine.” Good job on making social progress, Homeworld! Heterospecies fusions are now normal and accepted…it’s just that all fusions are supposed to be temporary, and for a practical purpose. Staying perma-fused out of love is still weird and scary.
  • …and unlike the part that works as a direct homophobia analogue, this part has some logic behind it. It’s not like Peridot would be scared by Ruby and Sapphire, as individuals, making out. But when they’re fused, they get stronger and more dangerous — it’s as if they’re making out while carrying loaded rifles for no obvious reason.
  • (I’m really curious what kinds of heterospecies fusions have been used most on Homeworld, and for what reasons…)

s01e22 The Answer

  • This episode is so good.
  • …is Steven sleeping in a box?
  • And I’m gonna end up writing a whole essay about the flashback, so here goes.

The corundum conundrum: All the Gem categories so far correspond to the IRL ones, e.g. amethyst and jasper are both types of quartz. And categories have similar roles and body types — Rose doesn’t seem to be as much of a bruiser as Jasper and a standard Amethyst, but she’s comfortable on a battlefield, and her special magical powers are perfect for a combat medic.

Well, ruby and sapphire are both types of corundum — which accounts for their similar heights, and the neat correspondence of their fire/ice abilities. And yet, Sapphire is an aristocratic Gem who also has rare and highly-sought powers, while Rubies are common soldiers who are treated as expendable? They’re not even as tough as Quartzes — if you have Quartzes available for bodyguards, why would you assign little Rubies instead?

A guess: Early Sapphires didn’t have future-vision. One of them developed it — maybe as the result of a successful experiment, maybe as a fluke — and all the others were deemed inferior by comparison, and broken.

Another guess: maybe early Rubies (and Padparadschas?) did have more-special abilities, but some Diamond deemed them too threatening and re-engineered them to be less so. A relic of a past inter-Diamond conflict, maybe? Rubies don’t match the color scheme of Blue Diamond’s court at all — maybe they’re one-time POWs from Pink Diamond, repurposed as cannon fodder.

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A terrifying renegade Pearl: This episode gives the impression that, at this point, Rose and her Pearl are the only renegades. And if Sapphire’s future-visions are any indication, they’re kinda predictable — even a common court Ruby is more innovative than these Fearsome Rebels. Why are they such a threat?

Maybe it really is just the “oh my clod, someone’s fancy decorative end table just started dual-wielding swords” effect.

Going by her color scheme in the mono-hue state of the episode, I’m officially on board with the idea that our Pearl was designed for White Diamond.

Bonus theory: Pearls, like early releases of Windows, have a limited number of possible color schemes. It identifies which Diamond’s court they belong to. Our Pearl always sets up her regenerations to have a bit of pink, a bit of white, a bit of blue, and a bit of yellow…because that’s the only way she has of identifying herself as independent.

Cotton candy Garnet: I’m not buying the idea that Ruby and Sapphire were so close, and so emotionally in-sync, that they could fuse by accident after a few moments of cute small talk. Now, the idea that they had some bonding going on that Garnet glossed over because it was Not Appropriate For Steven…that, I would buy.

First-time Garnet never gives herself a name. Is it inherent — could you run some kind of scan on her fusion construct and identify her — or did she choose it? First-time Garnet is a haphazard mix of fluffy of colors, and it’s only present-day Garnet who has the same color scheme as the stone itself. Did she settle on a palette to match the name she liked, or the other way around?

The other well-practiced fusions (Opal, Alexandrite, Sugilite, Sardonyx, Rainbow Quartz) all have harmonious color schemes that match the actual rocks, even when it isn’t an obvious mix of the palettes of their constituent Gems. (Where did all that green in Alexandrite come from…?)

Malachite also has a nice uniform design and color scheme…even though she was a first-time. Wonder if that’s an indication that Lapis or Jasper or both have fused before. And where did her name come from? Nobody uses it in-universe until she identifies herself in Chille Tid, so it could easily have been self-chosen. On the other hand, maybe back on Homeworld there’s a chart of all possible Lapis and Jasper fusions, and one of the Gems happened to remember it.

How you feel is bound to be much more interesting: I’m so curious about whether Rose and Pearl had already fused when they saw Garnet. Did she give them the whole idea, and that’s part of why Rose is so fascinated? By their second meeting, I would bet Rainbow Quartz has happened — Rose gives Garnet such knowingly gentle “welcome to the fold, fellow deviant(s)” reassurance.

Either way…I touched on this with an earlier episode, the way Rose approaches them is incredibly savvy and subtle, and it’s a joy to watch. When she first sees them fuse, she immediately grabs Pearl and takes off. Rose made an on-the-spot call that something interesting (and potentially advantageous to her) was going on here, and it was worth her while to let it play out.

Fast-forward to their next meeting. It would make perfect sense for Rose to assume Garnet is some kind of spy, equipped with a sad backstory about being in disgrace with Blue Diamond, and sent to infiltrate her ranks. (If the Diamonds have any sense, they’ve tried to get a mole into her operation already.) But no. They’re genuinely runaways, being suspicious would be a waste of time, and Rose doesn’t bother.

From there, her next move could be giving them an aggressive sales pitch. (Come join the rebels! Generous signup bonus, frequent flyer miles, and a free toaster!) She definitely wants more Gems on her side. Trouble here is, Ruby and Sapphire didn’t take off with the intention of getting into a war, and they’re still pretty intimidated by Rose and Pearl. Coming on too strong would just freak them out. So Rose doesn’t do that either.

In the present day, the Crystal Gems all see Rose as an incredibly loving and caring figure. In the time period of this flashback, Ruby and Sapphire just see her as…kinda terrifying. She could go “you’re wonderful and important and will get lots of love and affirmation if you come with us!”, and she might even mean it, but they would be suspicious of a pitch like that.

So Rose’s first gesture toward Garnet is:

“You’re interesting. I’m interested in you.”

It might well be true. It’s not the whole truth (she leaves out the “I want you to take on Homeworld with me” angle). The important thing is that it’s plausible from Garnet’s perspective…without being terrifying or overbearing in a way that will freak Garnet out enough to make her bolt.

The_Answer_00118

And it works. Rose hits exactly the right note to encourage Garnet to open up. All of a sudden, they’ve got a rapport they can build on.

Us viewers could have worked out that this might work, because we’ve been watching Ruby and Sapphire bumbling about in the woods. We have an inside track on their loyalties, their fears, how little of a plan they have about what to do next. Rose…well, maybe she’s been keeping an eye on them too, orrrr maybe she has them pegged in under a minute, because she’s Just That Good.

Point is, no matter how you look at it, Rose Quartz is hella competent at interpersonal (intermineral?) strategy, and I love it.

Final notes: The shifting art styles throughout the story are gorgeous. I wonder what Blue Diamond has against visible eyes (or maybe she has a grudge against foreheads?) (either way, I wonder if flashback!Lapis also would have had lots of bangs). Ruby accidentally setting stuff on fire in response to Sapphire’s hotness is the greatest thing.

I would watch a whole series that was just Homeworld backstory.

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