Garnet is the best. Everyone knows it—if they didn’t before, then they certainly did after “Stronger Than You.” (If you are still stanning for Pearl or Amethyst, I respect your dedication but also let’s never hang out.)

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“Keeping It Together” deals with that particular piece of fallout in a couple of different ways, both by acknowledging the way that the revelation of Garnet’s identity as a fusion makes her indisputably the best Gem and that it raises lots of questions about the nature of Ruby and Sapphire’s relationship and how, exactly, they combine to form Garnet. Thankfully, it resists the urge to do this through an exposition dump (or even a series of them), instead allowing us to understand more about the mystical, kick-ass being that is Garnet by letting her just react to stuff (and, okay, maybe have some adorable conversations with Steven in the process).

Like us, Steven really wants to see and understand Ruby and Sapphire, trying to get Garnet to use them to help fold laundry. This is a classic child’s technique, making a technically correct argument about a very small task to get something else he wants, at a massively greater cost. But, no, Garnet is not unfusing for laundry. It’s good to know that, even has he’s grown up, Steven can still be as the viewer surrogate, something that also happens at the end of the episode when he questions the very nature of the washing machine. (“Do we even have plumbing up here?”) Some questions we don’t need to know the answers to, at least not yet—it’s more exciting to be left in the dark.

For example: Why is Peridot experimenting with turning the shards of shattered Gems into horrible fake fusions? It seems like there must be a bigger plan the home world is trying to implement, but we only see it from Peridot’s relatively narrow and hyper-focused perspective. She works exceedingly well slotted in to the “nuisance villain” role you find so often in kids’ shows (and anime specifically). Where she serves as a representative of the mysterious power of the Gem home world in “Marble Madness,” now Jasper has become the clear embodiment of that malice, with Yellow Diamond somewhere off in the distance. Peridot is an unfeeling scientist and maybe bureaucrat trying to complete her mission, treating the Gems as mild irritants detracting from the task at hand rather than true opponents. (Also, Shelby Rabara is really good at being annoying without making me want to turn off the TV.)

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Peridot’s fight with the Gems at the Kindergarden is just fantastic, mostly for how subtle it is. The conflict escalates through the perfectly reasonable uses of Gem abilities (including a couple we didn’t know Peridot had), refusing to let anyone be depowered, and showcases what Peridot can do as a threat while allowing Pearl and Amethyst to legitimately try to catch her. It develops a certain kinetic quality and rhythm that show off Villeco and Molisee’s command of the action sequence, suggesting something like an ongoing game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and makes me wish we could see the rest of the chase. Such is life.

There is, of course, a lot more excitement in this episode, particularly in Steven’s face when he realizes he’s being included as a full member of the team (over the slightest of objections from Pearl). His level of joy and forced seriousness here is absolutely priceless. It’s a moment that’s wonderfully in character, allowing Steven to still be childish while acknowledging his growth and increased importance to the Gems. It’s heartwarming—almost as much as his body movements when he walks off looking for Peridot, something that looks totally ridiculous but is also delightfully in character. And there’s excitement that comes from realizing Peridot’s grotesque experiment is the closest we’ve gotten to seeing the true depths of what makes Garnet tick.

“Cool,” which Garnet almost certainly is, often comes with or requires a certain lack of caring, something we’ve seen from this show in “Joy Ride” and from other shows in a variety of places (my favorite is Buffy’s “The Zeppo,” which explicitly sets out to interrogate this problem). Though she’s ambivalent at best about most human affairs (unless she’s trying to be sweet to Jamie the mail man), Garnet clearly cares about things, particularly Steven and the other Gems, and not much else. She can stand around looking extremely cool while the laundry runs, something it’s impossible to imagine Pearl doing, or even Amethyst (unless she was sulking). Now we know—she cares about fusion. This makes sense, since the process is fundamental to her identity. Garnet has placed her faith and her well-being into the fusion of Ruby and Sapphire, embodying a love that she feels has been exploited and manipulated. It hurts.

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Admittedly, this emphasis on the power of fusion might be kind of frustrating as time goes on—as much as it’s nice to hear about the strength of relationships and the beauty of love, there’s a point where it might seem a little distressing to other viewers without the same level of affection in their lives. (This is the point where I admit that the“I think you’re just mad ’cause you’re single” burn from “Stronger Than You” rubbed me the wrong way just a little, and yes I am single, why do you ask.) I’m mostly using this space to express a slight reservation and see if it’s struck anyone else the same way—it’s not like I really have a problem with Garnet, or how great she is. After all, we wouldn’t want to break up a pair.

Stray observations

  • The light configurations of the hybrid fusion monster are pretty fascinating. Are there any fan theories about Gems being really advanced computers, or anything like that?
  • On a related note: Aivi and Surasshu do just fantastic work with the fusion experiments, turning in a carnival-like sound that threatens to fall apart at any moment. It’s not quite openly scary, but might actually be more unsettling because of it.
  • Just how fast are Peridot’s fingers?
  • Is there a technical term/trope name for the kind of secondary henchman Peridot is becoming? I’d guess not, but figured I might as well ask, since this isn’t an area I’m super familiar with.
  • The most important enemy of all. “There are towels in there.”

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