Steven Universe: Keeping It Together
June 17, 2015 3:17 PM - Season 2, Episode 11 - Subscribe

The Crystal Gems find a sinister secret in the Kindergarten.
posted by Small Dollar (20 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oh god. Steven Universe takes a turn to horror.
posted by JHarris at 4:44 PM on June 17, 2015

Again. And this proves that Peridot really is evil and not just a jerk.
posted by Small Dollar at 4:58 PM on June 17, 2015

Well, some people on the sub are suggesting that either she was trying to defuse them (based on what she said before she saw Steven) or doesn't comprehend the horror of what she's doing. But yeah, it's a point against her.
posted by JHarris at 5:04 PM on June 17, 2015

I really like the "multiple gummi worms smushed into each other" look of the coercively fused gems. They're bright, colorful, but sort of toxic looking. Also considering everything fusion can represent, that there are coercively fused gems actually is surprisingly dark.

I love how this episode ends on such a melancholy note. It breaks the conflict-climax-resolution plot that Western cartoons are so totally stuck on in favor of something without any easy solutions. The Frankengems are sad, and that sadness is given more weight by Garnet not knowing what to do in response. We learn something huge in this episode, but nothing really happens. It's more about Steven's curiosity and questions about fusion, which gives us some sweet, sad moments, but is even more open-ended than the Frankengems thing.
posted by byanyothername at 5:32 PM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Body horror, yaaaaaaay nope nope nope. The music when the fused shards appear was great at making me feel even more creeped out.

I think there was an Amethyst in the bigger clump but couldn't really figure out the others.

Okay, trying to get a sense of the timeline. Homeworld did experiments on gem shards during the Earth War. Peridot fails to reactivate the Kindergarten, then she's ordered to visit the cluster, which I assume is the lab. But if fusion is seen so negatively, what does Homeworld want with the research?

POW experiments in my precious cinnamon roll cartoon. And I thought Avatar's Lake Laogai was dark for a children's cartoon.
posted by zix at 6:07 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not just body horror. Rape. This was a clear contrast of Ruby and Sapphire's consensual relationship with the horror of coerced fusion. Which in the Gem world, would be analogous to rape. Which is why Garnet was so sad and angry that it nearly tore her in two.

God, this show.

Also; Peridot is more than a little crazed. And then there's Garnet's statement that the victim-shards were the ones they "couldn't find" but apparently had been searching for. Which implies a rescue (unless they got them all this time) and a possible restoration (which I think is the logical endpoint). I think the CGs final fight will be when they restore the corrupted Gems and thus have a ready-made army. Which, now, has a clear motive for vengeance against the homeworld.
posted by emjaybee at 7:00 PM on June 17, 2015 [8 favorites]

While it went to some dark places, the first half of the episode was a lot of fun. I love how Pearl modified the chore wheel, but not the way such wheels usually get abused.
posted by JHarris at 7:41 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Man, there was a lot to take in, here. Ruby & Sapphire's debate about whether they're to blame for the fusion experiments suggests that fusion is something that the Crystal Gems either pioneered themselves or brought to hitherto unseen prominence. I assumed Jasper's initial dismissal of fusion was just typical "strong loner" dismissal of working together, but now it seems that may be the prevailing attitude among Homeworld Gems.

Meanwhile, Amazon Instant Watch continues to perplex me with their episode numbering. Sworn to the Sword & Rising Tides/Crashing Skies is now available as "episode 3" of "season 6", yet Reformed isn't even listed yet.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 8:20 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I appreciated the subtle cuts to Amethyst while Garnet and Pearl were talking about the Kindergarten, like she felt ashamed about her origins.

While the experimental fusions definitely pervert the Gem equivalent of sex/romantic relationships, I'd say it's really more a case of vivisection rather than rape. It's probably better not to think too deeply about the sorts of atrocities fictional aliens can suffer, though.
posted by Small Dollar at 9:13 PM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ok it's time for Mr. E's theory corner. It seems like the key to fusion is Love, in the "Love is the eternal bond that holds us blah blah" sense. So it makes sense that fusion is a Crystal Gem thing and not a homeworld thing, homeworld gems don't seem big on love. My new personal theory is that not only is Garnet a fusion, she's the FIRST fusion. It looks like during the war Homeworld spent time trying to figure out the mechanics of Fusion by physically welding broken gems together, with horrific results. I bet the peices of gems from Secret Team are other fallen Crystal Gems that did not fall into enemy hands (which is why Rose and Garnet were keeping that bubble separate). Looks like Homeworld eventually did crack the code on fusion, since Jasper successfully fuses with Lapis.

Another theory I now have is Rose has been interested in making a human/gem fusion for a long time, but was unsuccessful until she allowed herself to fall in love with Greg. It was only thanks to their love that she was able to create Steven, and only thanks to her love that she was able to give up her form to allow Steven to exist. Pearl's idea of love is a bit skewed, so she can't understand why Rose did what she did. I think Rose has thought for a long time that some form of hybrid is the future for both Gemkind and Humanity, since it has the potential of breaking Gemkind's destructive reproduction cycle.

I agree that the future of the Crystal Gems is restoring the corrupted gem monsters and even the gem shards, and Steven will be able to do what Rose couldn't because unlike Rose he has ready access to a source of the life energy that Gems need to exist: his human body.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:50 PM on June 17, 2015 [8 favorites]

Ronaldo's right, as backed up by Pearl: "Polymorphic sentient rocks! They're here to hollow out the Earth!"
posted by glass origami robot at 10:46 PM on June 17, 2015 [9 favorites]

"You can read about it ON MY BLOG!!"
posted by JHarris at 11:13 PM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Amazon, what is your deal? Still no "Reformed" anywhere, but right now, they not only have up through "Keeping it Together" but "We Need to Talk" which is technically not out on CN yet? Don't know if I have time to watch it at lunch.
posted by emjaybee at 9:48 AM on June 18, 2015

Okay, trying to get a sense of the timeline. Homeworld did experiments on gem shards during the Earth War. Peridot fails to reactivate the Kindergarten, then she's ordered to visit the cluster, which I assume is the lab. But if fusion is seen so negatively, what does Homeworld want with the research?

My take on it was that the shards were from other earth gems (Crystal Gems?) who had been defeated/taken prisoner in Rose's rebellion and used as... I dunno, raw material for horrific Frankensteinian soldiers.

This seems to fit with Jasper's view of fusion actually. If fusion is something only weak gems would seek to do, then that could imply a belief in the right of the strong to be in charge. I can easily see the likes of Jasper having no compunctions with forcing gems to fuse for her own benefit. She didn't seem to deny fusion's usefulness either, she was just about willing to fuse with Lapis when her back was against the wall. Anyway, intense episode. Very definitely running with forced fusion as something like a rape analogue.

Other thoughts:

- Amethyst was pretty subdued and thoughtful in places here, both when Pearl was talking about kindergarten and when she was inspecting the hole.

- Is 'janked' that bad a word? That's what the transcript is coming up with for what Garnet said causing Amethyst to laugh and Pearl to look embarrassed. Or does it have some gem-specific meaning?

- Steven in Serious Mode throughout. I liked how he was still concerned for Peridot's safety, as well as the little pantomime shake-shake-nod-nod-shrug.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 12:04 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

ocular shenanigans: “Is 'janked' that bad a word?”
I thought it was "jacked" and was funny because it's Earth slang.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:45 PM on June 18, 2015

This is a creepy, uncanny, challenging cartoon. I'm wracking my brain but I cannot point at any other c-horror cartoon that comes even close. Ren and Stimpy perhaps? But there's a visceral squick factor that I've never witnessed in a US-produced series that's aimed at kids.

Great Bog but I love this show!
posted by endotoxin at 5:59 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd say it's really more a case of vivisection rather than rape.

Fusion overall seems to primarily be a way of looking at consent; there are many different ways to abuse people who cannot/do not consent, and forced fusion could represent any or all of them.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:24 PM on June 18, 2015

There's, I'd say, a similar level of oogy-factor in Gravity Falls, endotoxin. It's usually less body-horror and more psychological horror, but there's plenty enough of both, really. I rarely find people who are college age and younger who watch one and don't watch the other. Going back a bit I'd say the next most recent comparable show for squick would be Invader Zim, so there's definitely a gap there, and I think what we're seeing right now is the creators having been inspired as teenagers and having paid enough dues as lowly whatevers in their industry to make what they want to see.
posted by Mizu at 1:39 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I got this one as a two-parter with "We Need to Talk," and my goodness, did a kids show just give us more with a metaphor regarding intimacy and consent than just about any work of adult speculative fiction I've read in the last year?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:03 PM on June 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure why only Amethyst should feel bad about her origin involving sucking life out of a planet? Is there some other, more environmentally friendly method that produced Sapphire, Ruby, Pearl, and Rose? They didn't come from Earth, so did they come from Homeworld itself before they presumably used it up and turned to Earth? The Gem culture has been described as an empire, so chances are the rest of the Crystal Gems originated on planets less fortunate than Earth.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:31 PM on June 22, 2015

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