Steven Universe Recap: “Log Date 7 15 2”
In case you forgot that Square Mom is Best Mom.
The Recap: Steven sneaks a listen to Peridot’s tape recorder and winds up learning about how Peridot gained a rapport with Garnet.
Chalk this up as another subject that was broached far more quickly than I’d estimated. The promise of seeing Peridot fuse is a pretty tantalizing one that also requires a heck of a lot of setup, and this episode managed to set the stage and also defer the payoff without seeming cheap. It’s a small moment in an episode full of small moments ranging from momentous to blissfully stupid. Hilary Florido and Lauren Zuke were also the writer/boarder team behind “Catch and Release” and “Too Far,” more or less cementing them as the Gem Antics crew (they also gave us the gift of Jamie’s impressions in “Historical Friction”).
While it’d be nice to see other combinations of writers tackle Peridot’s interactions with the team – something I’m sure will happen down the line – for now it’s nice to have the consistency of a team that’s proven they grasp the balance of manic rage and awkward pathos. These are important episodes for endearing Peridot to the audience in the long run, and she’s the exact comedic archetype that could go very, very badly if that tonal balance gets skewed. Rabara seems to understand this as well as the writers, saving that Richard Horvitz-worthy shrill shriek for peak moments and modulating all the way down to a deadpan monotone for contrast.
Centering what had to be the tip top of a long list of writer’s room pitches around Peridot’s misadventures getting used to Earth around Peridot’s relationship with Garnet is a smart move to ground what is otherwise just nebulous skits, and to give meaning to them while also letting the audience breathe from the events of “Message Received.” The lack of Peridot and Garnet interactions in previous episodes was a fairly noticeable hole, one that makes structural sense now in hindsight. As befits Garnet’s character, their understanding is the culmination of many small moments rather than the flashpoints with Pearl (“Back to the Barn”) and Amethyst (“Too Far”).
In fact, Garnet pretty well steals the episode, giving us all a reminder of why she spent a long time as the group’s de facto leader. She’s understanding of Peridot’s perspective without excusing it, explaining things succinctly in a way that appeals to a logical sensibility (compare the way she talks Peridot down to her previous chats with Steven). It gives her dialogue in “Message Received” an extra bitter poignancy – one gets the feeling that Garnet has given her patience to someone who squandered it, perhaps even after Ruby and Sapphire escaped Homeworld (it’s also quite believable that she’s taking the opportunity to introduce Steven to this hard truth in a moment where she’s hoping he won’t actually have to use it, since she’s been watching Peridot absorb Earth philosophies almost without realizing it).
And how about the fusion-that-wasn’t, huh? I find the reduction of fusion to a simple sex metaphor to be a detriment to the complexity of the concept (which is certainly quite intense but also encompasses a spectrum of emotional intimacies), but there’s no doubt that Garnet was having a ball with the chance to be flirtatious here – and given the design of Lauren Zuke’s promo for the episode, I’m pretty sure the crew didn’t miss it either. There’s almost the air of a competent upperclassman offering a kissing lesson so that their friend won’t be so flustered and mystified by the concept. It sets a tone for the scene that will probably come into play as contrast for whoever Peridot does wind up fusing with, but it’s also a warm moment of physical trust (for Peridot) and emotional trust (for Garnet) combining. This is exactly, as we discussed last episode, what Peridot needs to do. It’s alright that she still struggles or puts her foot in it (it’s less okay that she pushed Greg off a roof, but another medal to the best dad for continuing to take things in stride). What’s important is that she’s trying to reach out to others, and is here doing so on the subject of Homeworld’s single biggest taboo. Garnet might not be Peridot’s best choice for a first time fusion partner, but the unexpected gentle trust between them might be my favorite surprise of this week’s run.
Well, almost. I have to talk about one more thing. That shipping joke. It might be the very pinnacle of that tonal balance I was talking about earlier. Peridot has come to carry the brunt of gentle, loving nudges at the fandom, something which could be a very cheap form of humor if those moments weren’t so well couched in-universe. Peridot’s long shipping manifesto could’ve been that and worked well enough (certainly I personally can’t get the increasing certainty that I am watching myself dialed back ten years and stripped of any restraint, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that feeling). But then that moment becomes an enormous character payoff, the key to Peridot’s understanding of Garnet that puts the character diametrically opposed to where she stood when she came to Earth.
Lots of shows have done jokes at the expense of fandom, from kind to condescending. In that two-step moment of Peridot boring Steven and later connecting with Garnet, the show created an almost perfect snapshot of how fictional media can bring better understanding. Peridot has trouble connecting with others, is at a loss for experiences beyond her scope of understanding, and working from a lifetime of never being allowed let alone encouraged to question her own viewpoints. The fact that after weeks of frustration, a lifetime of internal prejudice, Garnet is able to give Peridot insight by relating it to a fictional relationship Peridot was invested in is unbelievably powerful. Yes, it can be tiring when someone is overenthused about something and hasn’t learned to modulate themselves for different audiences. Yes, it can be exclusionary, and at worst promote very dangerous mob mentality. But being a fan has also saved lives, changed minds, founded marriages and forged lifelong bonds. Fiction is how we understand ourselves and each other. And moments like this, more than the genre subversion or cute homages, remind one that the Crewniverse is made up as much of fans as it is creators. I suspect that this is what helps make it so special.
At last report there are no more new episodes planned for January, and the new episode schedule for February won’t make an appearance until the end of the month. So stay strong out there, readers. And be good to each other.
Vrai is a queer author and pop culture blogger; they’re already having preemptive withdrawals. You can read more essays and find out about their fiction at Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories, support their work via Patreon or PayPal, or remind them of the existence of Tweets.
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