“I won’t do it!”

There it is, everyone. Peridot is officially on the team now, whether she likes it or not. (Probably not.) I suppose there could be a final test where Yellow Diamond offers Peridot the opportunity to come back to Home World in exchange for betraying Steven—this might even be likely somewhere down the road—but the resolution here feels pretty definitive. Welcome aboard, Peridactyl.

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Isn’t it nice that this happened already? Peridot’s moment of truth came a lot sooner than, I think, a lot of people were expecting. But it makes sense. We know this is where Peridot is going to end up (I really think the show has too much empathy for her to make her truly villainous again, unless the writers are a lot crueler than I expected), so why not just let it happen? Besides, there was no way Steven wasn’t going to do anything about the mysterious crystal he saw Peridot take from the moon.

Storyboarders Raven Molisee and Paul Villeco do a great job with Steven this episode, moving effortlessly between his scary attempts at intimidating Peridot (one of the few times Steven has genuinely threatened another Gem, even if it’s still kind of funny) and his puppy dog sense of betrayal. Steven is an open wound for most of “Message Received,” trying to reconcile his kind nature and faith in humanity (and Peridot) with her evident decision to give the Gems up to Yellow Diamond. “Why did I think I could change her mind?” he asks.

Pearl and Amethyst are… not totally empathetic here. Pearl acknowledges Steven’s pain, but just wants him to set it aside until after the crisis is over. He can feel bad about himself and his bad decisions back at the temple. Amethyst idly wonders if she could shrink down and somehow change Peridot’s programming or something. That’s not the point, though. Steven fumbles toward an articulation of a serious problem in ethics: “I don’t want to tell her what to do. She should just know. Shouldn’t she?” As per usual, only Garnet fully understands what Steven is going through: He gave Peridot a lot of his trust and a lot of himself, but sometimes people aren’t worth it. You still have to keep trying.

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Of course, there’s also a sense in which not even Steven fully understands what Peridot herself is going through. He asks her if she’s loyal to Yellow Diamond, and her response—“How could I not be?”—says a lot. It’d be easy to take her as villainous for saying this, but it would also be easy to forget that Peridot is one of hundreds, thousands, or maybe even millions of identical Gems built with an explicit purpose in mind: serving her Diamond. It’s really hard for humans to choose to do the right thing most of the time, and we’re not even programmed to blow up planets (at least not explicitly). Peridot is struggling with what she’s learned from the Gems, but it’s in contention with the very loud voice telling her “all that matters is I’m of use to Yellow Diamond,” that she exists only as a piece in Home World’s puzzle of galactic domination. That’s why she looks so happy when the communicator works.

And when it does, we finally get to meet Yellow Diamond, voiced by none other than Patti freakin’ LuPone. She’s drawn as even more otherworldly than the Gems we’ve seen so far. She’s a bit more abstract, a bit more geometric. And she’s a giant. In one of a couple of quick cuts showing her in full from the Diamond control room, she appears to be about three times taller than her Pearl. If that Pearl is the same height as ours, then a fight against Yellow Diamond would be pretty damn serious. Also, she’s effortlessly cruel and cold, and wouldn’t hesitate to crush a planet.

Maybe that’s part of why the Crystal Gems all hide behind the truck when Yellow Diamond’s face shows up on Earth. There was no way they wouldn’t be present for this moment—they used to let Peridot get away all the time, but they’re such a well-oiled machine after “Friend Ship,” there’s no way that’d happen this time. (Steven even has room to compliment Amethyst’s nicknames from the comfort of her helicopter form.)

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I’ve talked a lot about how much of a child Peridot is, even compared to Steven, which helps explain the distant, demanding parental dynamic she has with Yellow Diamond. The “flawless” Gem might want to destroy the Earth, but it’s still devastating when Yellow Diamond, assured that Peridot wouldn’t waste her time on a simple report, replies, “You already have.” And she doesn’t even look at Peridot when she spits out “I want my Cluster, and I want that planet to die.” (To be fair to Yellow Diamond here, you have to imagine Diamonds are all doing, like, a million things at once.) In a reverse of what we might have considered the Peridemption, Yellow Diamond tells Peridot that she has one chance to redeem herself: let the Cluster grow until it emerges—and destroy herself along with it.

The self-preservation instinct might be at play here (it was the reason she agreed to help the Gems in the first place), but by now, Peridot also knows there are things on the planet worth protecting. In spite of herself, she wants to protect Steven. So she attempts to persuade Yellow Diamond to stop the Cluster by appealing to the “unique resources” of Earth. It’s not quite the argument Steven would make in favor of the planet, but, like their respective approaches to singing, it’s the version Peridot understands. They complement each other. And, when we cut to the Gems hiding behind the truck after Peridot rebukes her master, only thing changes in the frame: Steven smiles.

Yellow Diamond’s obvious anger and distorted veins reduce her authority a bit in her rage, but it’s worth it to give Peridot a bit of a victory after calling Yellow Diamond a clod and severing her ties to Home World. Even with Steven giving her a big hug, she’s still made a clean, literally explosive break with everything she’s ever known. She’s part of a team and has a planet to protect now, sure, but she’s going to need the consolation. Now the hard part starts.

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Stray observations

  • “Save your strength. You’re up against one of the Earth’s greatest traffic technologies: the child safety lock.”
  • “That’s right. You can feel horrible all you want back at the temple.”
  • Is the cut to the Diamond control room a break from the show’s commitment to only showing Steven’s perspective? (Also, is Shelby Rabara going to join the main voice cast?)
  • The long categorization system for Peridots suggests the extent to which its aberrant that our Gems have developed individual identities. A good reason to be even more impressed with Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl.
  • Last episode of the Bomb tomorrow. See you then!

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