There’s a lot of cleaning up to do after this week’s episodes, both for the Gems and for Steven Universe. The show is going to have to deal with the knowledge (assumed or real) that Rose Quartz shattered Pink Diamond, watch Steven grapple with throwing Eyeball out into space, and make a concerted effort to cure Jasper’s corruption. But for now, everyone has to finish picking up the pieces of her army. Raven Molisee and Paul Villeco turn “Kindergarten Kid” into an extended Looney Tunes homage, with the Beta kindergarten transformed into the desert landscape where Wile E. Coyote chases the Road Runner. Peridot, of course, is the Coyote.
Once Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl leave to let Peridot and Steven take out the last Gem monster, most of the episode becomes a series of broad set pieces that could have come straight out of a Looney Tunes segment, from the rock formations to the speed of the blue monster right down to the dust cloud when Peridot and the monster fall from a high ledge. There are a lot of funny moments here (especially when Peridot tries to act like the monster and bounces up and down sticking her tongue out), but they don’t quite add up to enough to redeem the rest of the episode, which is scattershot and kind of tonally inconsistent for the show.
The issue here is that, for all that Peridot thinks she can beat the monster with “simple physics,”their adventures in monster hunting follow totally different cartoon physics rules. Yes, I’m saying this criticizing an episode of a show about alien rocks made out of light. But one of the things that’s so great about Steven Universe is the consistency of its world, the understanding that, from “Steven The Sword Fighter” on, there can be some form of physical consequence for a Gem’s actions. Here, Peridot takes an insane amount of punishment in the name of comedy, without really incurring any of those consequences. Steven even points this out when he says, “You don’t poof easy,” which is funny but also just calls attention to the problem. Peridot’s response (“Us Peridots are tougher than we look!”) is okay as far as it goes, but it’s not enough, especially since this is the first indication we’ve gotten of that quality in Peridots.
Peridot’s arrogance about her ability to hunt the monster is as close as “Kindergarten Kid” gets to an emotional arc—she slowly realizes… that she can’t do things by herself, and how the monster is maybe smart in its own way? Or something? But some of her plans are good (how was she supposed to know that the injector wouldn’t fall?), and though the scene of Steven throwing marshmallows at her is sweet and an interesting way of approaching the monsters as simply possessing slightly different brains and ways of thinking, the episode doesn’t hit this theme hard enough, and it doesn’t really give Peridot a chance to internalize the lesson, give or take the tongue stuff. She sort of admits she had been too confident in her abilities at the beginning, but it’s not much.
”Really,“Kindergarten Kid” is caught halfway between a normal episode of Steven Universe and something like “Garnet’s Universe,” “Say Uncle,” or even a Greg flashback episode—an episode that signals its intent to change the rules of the show. It doesn’t quite commit to being either thing, leaving it open to the sort of confusion Amethyst experiences about the bubbles and Jasper’s cages. Pearl quickly asserts that bubbling is different and Garnet claims that they won’t suffer, but I think we’re getting to a point where we need a fuller explanation of what bubbling is, and what it does to a Gem. (To be fair, the Gems aren’t planning on using the trapped monsters as fodder for an army.)
Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl might even get the chance to explain it to Peridot, who they had been watching from behind a bunch of rocks, because they knew her attempts to catch the monster would be funny. Peridot has no experience with bubbling, which as an ostensibly protective act has little to do with her original Home World directives. But here, she gets to make her first bubble and sends it home—meaning it shows up next to Lapis, reading quietly in the barn. Another addition to the morp gallery.
- Steven, talking about the monster: “She’s all alone out here, with no idea what she’s doing.” Pearl: “Oh, Peridot will be fine.”
- What’s better, Peri Plans or Pearl Points?
- Wile E. Coyote is the biggest influence on “Kindergarten Kid,” but there’s also some Hanna-Barbera in there too, including the obvious Yogi Bear shoutout, “I’m smarter than your average Peridot.”
- I kept expecting Peridot to poof, which would have been cool! (What would a reformed Peridot even look like? Do you think Peridot has ever had to reform?)
- For all that Lapis wanted to get out and explore after being trapped for so long, she sure does love hanging out at home, huh?
- Last episode of the Nuke tomorrow!