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The five main characters of Steven Universe, the ones who are on the beach at the end of the title sequence, consist of three extremely powerful alien beings, the only known hybrid between the race of said beings and humanity, and a guy named Greg who runs a car wash and sleeps in his van. One of these things is not like the others, and at the outset of the show, it’s hard to see how Greg could possibly hold his own among such extraordinary people. How could a mere human be of any use when there are characters around him who who so much more than human?
The answer, it turns out, is in the question. Greg is not just human; he’s super-human. Not in the sense of having physical or mental capabilities that most humans don’t; on the contrary, Greg simply embodies the best that we average humans can hope to be. He’s kind, selfless, accepting, supportive, and understands his own, limited vision. Any other show would have had Greg constantly trying to prevent Steven from going on missions with the Gems; Greg hardly ever does. He recognizes that the Gems understand Steven’s limits and abilities when it comes to his Gem powers better than Greg does, and he trusts their judgement. He worries, of course: it’s terrifying to watch your child deliberately walk into dangerous situations. But he always has faith that Steven will come out alright, which he always does.
It is this humanity which leads to Greg’s greatest contribution to the show so far: the decoding of a transmission sent to our Gems from, as it turns out, our old friend Lapis Lazuli. But the Gems’ technology isn’t advanced enough to unscramble the signal, so Steven enlists Greg to take a crack at it. Greg is an erstwhile rock musician, and earlier in the episode, acquired Steven’s admiration for his skills in his one area of expertise: sound. Effects, amps, pedals, frequencies, Greg knows it all. So the Gems, while skeptical, bring their Waling Stone to Greg and him try and turn the raw sound into something intelligible.
And…he fails. He tries his best, but then the battery in his van gives out before he makes any real progress at all. The Gems thank him for the attempt, and go back to the house. Greg and Steven are left on the beach, Greg picks up an acoustic guitar, and works out his frustration via music, Adventure Time style. Because, you see, Greg is human. He screws up. In fact, judging by the fact that he is perpetually sun-burned, appears to change clothes about once a month, has no conception of the word “Barber”, and, you know, live in a van, it seems clear that Greg has screwed up fairly often throughout his life. This hits him hard, though. Sound is the one thing he’s really good at, and the Gems, the people he admires most in the world, gave up on him pretty quickly. This hurts his human soul.
But Steven is human too; as well as Gem. He believes in his dad the way the other Gems couldn’t possibly, at least at this point. As per usual, Steven has an epiphany, realizing that the transmission was video, not sound. They rush into the house, convince the other Gems to try Greg one more time, Garnet jump starts the van with her fists (That’s awesome), and the titular message is finally revealed: a warning from Lapis Lazuli.
Things have changed on the Gem Homeworld. What they are isn’t exactly clear, but what is clear, after much effort on Greg’s part towards making it clear, is that Lapis was not entirely happy with what she found when she finally reached her home. She was in that mirror a long time, and while she definitely knew about the war and had sided against earth, that may be a decision she comes to regret. And soon we’ll see why; Peridot became well acquainted with Steven just a few weeks ago, and as Lapis warns, is now headed for earth to some some clean-up. And she’s not alone.
The Gems almost certainly suspected that this would happen, but Lapis confirmed it, and they can now begin to make real preparations. And all thanks to a balding music geek who wouldn’t quit. All the heroes in Steven Universe are beautifully flawed: between Steven’s short-sightedness, Pearl’s borderline OCD, Amethyst’s lack of responsibility, and Garnet’s…well, we’ll get to that later, they’re a pretty imperfect bunch. But that only makes them more human, and, as we see later in the week, they felt that was worth fighting a war for, since the other Gems have–*puts on brown coat, musses up hair slightly*–“The belief that they can make people… better. And I do not hold to that.” No one needs to make them better. And certainly, no one ever needs to make Greg better.
Although he could still stand to invest in some sunblock.
Final Rating: Very Good/Mind-Blowingly Amazing
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