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“We are the Crystal Gems. We’ll always save the day. And if you think we can’t, we’ll always find a way. That’s why the people of this world believe in Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. And Steven!”
The purpose of a theme song is to sum up the bare bones of what the show it opens is about. In the case of Steven Universe, that means very directly introducing the characters and what their deal is. It seems fairly straightforward, but upon watching the show, an odd truth emerges: one line in the theme song appears to be inaccurate. “…the people of this world believe in [The Crystal Gems].” Do they? Because throughout the show, most of the human characters we meet don’t even appear to know what the Gems are, much less have faith in their day-saving abilities. They’re just the weird family who live in the house by the giant statue and never go into town. People who live as close as Connie’s family don’t even know they exist, not exactly an indication that the entire planet thinks of them as their heroes.
They do seem to believe in Steven, though. In fact, that ability to reach people–in a development which would normally make me want to wretch, but through the magic of Rebecca Sugar & co. becomes the most heartwarming thing on television–turns out to be Steven’s real super-power. Yes, he has his ever-improving Gem abilities, and a day will come soon where he’ll go full-on meta-human and deliver some righteous justice in its purest form: laser zaps. But even then, like the archetype that preceded him–the blue guy with the red cape and the ‘S’ on his chest–the thing which really sets Steven apart is his incredible compassion, optimism, and ability to inspire others to pursue the best in themselves.
So, Steven becomes a mediator, of a sort. A bridge between the quirky, often-in-peril Beach City citizens, and the seemingly aloof Crystal Gems. As is only fitting, given his genetics. Steven is the one who has to ride around with Mayor Dewey reassuring everyone that the power will come back on, despite the fact that the outage was caused by some old Gem-tech the other three were tinkering with. Steven has to listen to Dewey prattle on about exterminators who are totally copying his “Drive around in a truck with a giant model of my head on the top” idea. And Steven ends up being the one who keeps the people from rioting once night falls, and Dewey doesn’t make good on his promise to have things fixed.
Before we get to that, let’s talk about the Mayor himself. Dewey has always seemed to be a bit of a slimeball: he eagerly hands out his buttons at the end of every conversation, is constantly worried about being re-elected, and has no qualms with deciding what information the Beach City dwellers can handle and what they can’t. However, in this episode, that portrait is softened considerably. Mostly because it seems that he is genuinely altruistic about hiding the truth from the rest of the town: he wants to protect them from things he knows will trouble them.
But Steven sees through even that. He realizes that people have a right to the truth about what’s happening to them, which he delivers to them clearly before the mob they’ve formed can really hurt the mayor. He tells them the power might not be back on for a long time, but it doesn’t matter, because he believes the citizens are strong enough to deal with that. He’s right, and the riot ends with apologies and amicability. And Steven realizes something else: the three Gems have been hiding the truth about Peridot’s impending arrival from him, but he’s strong enough to deal with that. As I noted earlier, he’s not just a child anymore: he’s a reasonable, intelligent person capable of changing hearts and minds. He can take whatever scary things the other Gems know about, even if it shakes him up a bit at first.
He goes back to the house, and demands the truth from them. And the truth turns out to be just as uncertain as the cover-up: all the gems know is that Peridot is coming with other Gems, who will have better weaponry than they ever had, and they don’t know what will happen when they arrive. They’re scared. As well they should be. But as the electricity reminds them all when it suddenly returns, things can change on a dime from fearful to hopeful. With some help from Steven: “None of us know what’s going to happen…but that’s okay. We’ll figure things out, right?” We saw back in “Maximum Capacity” that Steven’s powers can mess with televisions and things like that, so I like to think is was this sudden moment of stark hopefulness that brought the lights back on. It fits with Steven’s power: to give people hope where there appears to be none.
Final Rating: Good/Mind-Blowingly Amazing
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