Steven Universe: We Need to Talk
June 18, 2015 3:24 PM - Season 2, Episode 12 - Subscribe

Greg tells Steven and Connie how he learned about Gem fusion.
posted by Small Dollar (26 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Wow. This was a beautiful episode. They're really coming on strong with the fusion stuff and Steven's unknown nature; I'm guessing that theme is building up to something bigger, but I really love how fusion has come to ambiguously symbolize love, sex, strength, connection and a whole slew of positive things. Homeworld only seems to see power in it, and their fusions are a violation.

I love Young Greg. I really wanted to see Grose. But it's better this way. Realer. Relationships aren't ever perfect. It's interesting to see how imperfect Rose is, too. She haunts the whole show, but she was a complicated space lady, not the flawless feminine ideal her character type typically is. That's something I liked about Evangelion, too; the fleeting glimpses we got of Yui were of an intelligent, complex, flawed person, not the Perfect Mother or True Love Shinji and Gendo remember.
posted by byanyothername at 3:40 PM on June 18, 2015 [6 favorites]

Part of me kind of enjoys Sassy Jealous Pearl, despite how obviously terrible she was being towards Greg (she did a literal mic drop!) I think this was probably her lowest point as far as petty behavior, although I can't imagine her taking the news that Rose was basically going to die in childbirth well. In the present she's much more personable with Greg, if somewhat distant. My guess is she came around to basically being happy Rose found someone to love, even if she didn't entirely understand it.

I liked that the show followed up on Rose's somewhat patronizing language towards Greg in Story for Steven, hopefully now people can stop complaining about the hypocrisy of the "love at first sight" trope in relation to Love Letters, since this is basically where their real relationship began. This was pretty much the second episode of the two-parter I always felt like Story for Steven needed to be.

Interesting that Rainbow Quartz is a nearly "perfect" fusion, except for the eyes, maybe symbolizing how Rose and Pearl see things differently despite being so close. I'm still a bit confused on how aware Rose is of Pearl's feeling for her, although maybe that's part of the seemingly blurry line between friendship and romance for Gems. I'm also a bit curious about what exactly Greg and Rose had been doing for the past few months, but it's still a show on Cartoon Network so I doubt they're going to get into the mechanical details.
posted by Wandering Idiot at 4:48 PM on June 18, 2015 [10 favorites]

Wow. Greg.. you're the best.
(But yeah, the last shot of Steven made me feel a bit sad again.)
posted by bigendian at 5:14 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Poor Steven, neither Gem nor Human. If it wasn't for his default cheerful nature I would think Rebecca was setting him up for a serious existential crisis. Might happen yet, for all we know.
posted by endotoxin at 6:02 PM on June 18, 2015

Huh! I think of Steven more like a mixed race kid, so he's both Gem and Human, not neither.

I don't know why I was so stunned at how petty Pearl was. It's been shown multiple times how human and inhuman Pearl can be, but I guess I let it go because Pearl is usually so well-meaning but she was deliberately being malicious here.

Oof, that song! I thought the chorus was very sweet but my husband thought it was really condescending, which Rose's lyrics and later conversation do reflect how she thinks about humans.

Garnet encouraging Greg to try fusing with Rose in his own unique way, makes me wonder if Mr. Encyclopedia's theory about Garnet being the first fusion based on love is right. I wonder what Garnet saw in her future vision about Rose and Greg. (And huh, both Pearl and Greg try to use fusion more for personal gain than being an experience, to Garnet's words.)

With "this one's my/her favorite" and Rose/Greg's conversation about whether Rose has loved or been in love with other humans implies what exactly? She never fused with Greg nor even considered it a possibility so how did she get the idea to have Steven? How long has she been trying? How many others?

While I'm glad Greg is pretty chill and supportive about Stevonnie, I don't know if I'd be that cool as a real life parent. Steve and Connie are still somewhat young and I'm glad the cartoon emphasizes communication while figuring out their intense connection.
posted by zix at 7:45 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

First off, I am really having a hard time figuring out if Amethyst is actually smaller in the past or not. Despite Amethyst's shapeshifting talent I think there's a fairly hard limit regarding how big a gem's manifestation is based on their relative power level. Amethyst could shapeshift into her purple puma form and look as big as Jasper, but she's really just puffing herself up and isn't going to be any stronger (and may even be weaker). So what all this means is there's zero reason Amethyst should be any smaller in the past but I every time I look at her I feel like she's smaller. Maybe it's the hair?

I think it's interesting that Rose has spent time with other humans before (and loved them) but knows so little about them. Homeworld gems obviously don't care about any form of life, much less humanity, so it'd be a very interesting to hear how exactly she went from being sent to harvest the earth's life to make more gems to fighting for the earth's life. Rose has a connection with organic life the same way Lapis has with water, and I can't help but think organic life and water are two things in short supply on Homeworld. Lapis knows that the earth and its oceans give her a big advantage over gems like Jasper that would normally push her around. Maybe Rose wanted to make a move against the Homeworld since before she came to earth and knew that a planet teeming with life would give her the edge she needed to fight off the rest of gemkind. She clearly bloodied Homeworld's nose enough that they left her alone for the intervening thousands of years.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:41 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Anyway this episode shoots all manner of holes in my theory that Rose has wanted to make Steven for a long time or thought humans and gems need each other. Before Greg, humans were just one of the many amusing forms of life on earth. That just makes it all the more intriguing as to her thought process leading to Steven. Maybe her goal was to attempt to experience what it means to be human first-hand. Maybe deep down Pearl is just waiting Steven out to get Rose back, since what's a human lifetime to an immortal Gem?

I think it's funny how the show started out with cold, taciturn Garnet and devoted Pearl, and now we find Garnet is literally made of love and Pearl's devotion is really to her departed leader.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:54 PM on June 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

OMG this episode made me so frustrated at Rose. THE CONDESCENSION. (possibly an Imperious one? /homestuck) And to think that many episodes ago I was so annoyed at Greg for being an annoyingly overbearing dad...

Garnet seems to grok human love better than any other gem. I wonder if she was the first to get a clue about how humans operate deep down? Even in times when she seemed cold and indifferent she showed that she actually understood what was going on (like in the episode where the postman has a crush on her).

A Tumblr post about Pearl and Rose's relationship potentially being toxic because it was mostly based on idolization made me realize that I was pretty much in Pearl's position a little over 10 years ago. Down to the jealousy. Jesus.
posted by divabat at 9:27 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Okay, so from this sketch of Rainbow Quartz by one of the show's storyboard artists, a lot of this fusion style seems to come from Pearl's design (hair color, most of the outfit). I wondered how it compared to other fusions designs (animated gifs).

Static images:
Alexandrite (Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl)
Sugilite (Garnet, Amethyst)
Garnet, 2 (Ruby, Sapphire)
Opal (Amethyst, Pearl)
Stevonnie (Steven, Connie)
Malachite (Jasper, Lapis Lazuli)

My initial reaction (and possible confirmation bias) is that fusions usually do seem to be a fairly even mix of features but Rainbow Quartz and Malachite really stick out because one Gem's features are dominant. Sugilite still manages to look like both parts Garnet and Amethyst but Lapis doesn't add hell of a lot to Malachite and we know they weren't a good match. Can the same be applied to Rainbow Quartz?

And I'm loathe to say it, Garnet? A lot of Garnet seems to come from Ruby. I really hope I'm beanplating on Garnet.
posted by zix at 9:29 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Even though Pearl was a complete asshole, she was also acting entirely like a junior-high girl jealous of competition, which I don't find monstrous so much as very human. Perhaps part of the problem with Gems is that their long lifespan/toughness has led them to believe they are a more evolved life form, but emotionally they are just as confused and stunted as human beings can be. Maybe more so. Pearl's love for Rose took her far, but also became an obstacle to her growth. Losing Rose made her a sadder but more textured person, and it's hard and she hates it and fights it and grows anyway and how much more human can you be than that? All that to say I like Pearl as a character while not admiring all that she did.

Rose is tougher; we're only seeing her in highly-emotionally-charged flashbacks, which is frustrating. Of course she had earlier lovers, and outlived them. Maybe none of them challenged her the way Greg did because he was/is a genuinely good person. Maybe the others were more like worshippers who didn't dare to demand more.

I think Greg's attitude towards fusion/other Gem stuff for Steven has already been demonstrated. He will mostly not show his fears and freakouts more than he can help, because he knows he can't help Steven with those things. But sometimes he has to go sit in his van and freak out a while and listen to calming music. Frankly, after Cat Fingers and Jailbreak, fusion with Connie might not seem like enough for him to worry about. It's analogous to sex and Sugar is clearly making that comparison, but it's not sex. It's a different kind of intimacy, but not one that is likely to lead to STDs and pregnancy.

Speaking of Cat Fingers (and Frybo), I am just now watching through the first season with my kid, and he said those were the scariest cartoons he'd ever seen and we are bonding over how much they freaked us out. But he still wants to watch the rest. We watched several today and are agreed that Onion is just wrongedy wrong wrong.
posted by emjaybee at 9:39 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Garnet seems like a nice blend of Ruby/Sapphire. Her design leans toward the Ruby side, but her personality has a fair bit of both. Garnet seems to be the most human gem, which is really interesting given how aloof she seemed earlier in the show.

Rose actually seems like the least human. She treats Greg more like a pet than a person, and her whole attitude toward humanity is pretty condescending. Her total confusion when he calls her out on that is kind of heartbreaking. I agree that this feels like the actual beginning of their relationship.

Young Amethyst seems kinda almost feral. I wonder what she was like before she found a family?

I really love that Greg's reaction to Stevonnie is so sweet and positive.

I feel like a lot of us were probably teenage Pearls. At least Greg had the sense to realize that a mic drop damages expensive equipment!

And Frybo is freaking horrifying.
posted by byanyothername at 9:44 PM on June 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

Yeah, Garnet is framed like Ruby, but her personality is a lot like Sapphire's - wise and quiet and introverted. Also there's a lot of small details, like the mouth and the covered eyes.
posted by divabat at 9:50 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Amethyst is definitely smaller. Like, Steven sized. I just figured it was because she was younger - we don't know when she came out of the Kindergarten or if she came out fully formed. I assumed that she had some period of "growing up" before she became the full gem we see her as in the show, and she definitely seems more childlike in this episode.

(This also ties in to my own pet WILD THEORY, which is that the timing of the war isn't quite as static as we think it is, which is based pretty much entirely on how sketchy Greg got about how he wasn't physically there for the Gem War).
posted by Itaxpica at 10:09 PM on June 18, 2015

Also, this is not a show that's ever shied away from body horror. Cat Fingers and Frybo are the obvious examples, but there are definitely others (IIRC Watermelon Steven had some iffy bits).
posted by Itaxpica at 10:10 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Animators for the show have talked about how characters often go off-model including heights, so I think that we can choose to see the Gems' apparent shortness in the recent past as metaphorical or not depending on how we want to watch the show.
posted by Mizu at 10:12 PM on June 18, 2015

So, parts of the episode that aren't Pearl, Rose or Greg?
"I hit the drums, so pay up!" "Rrrrrr!"
"HEY! Are you dead?"
Also, fetching the stick!

And Garnet's smiles are still wonderful to behold.
posted by JHarris at 7:19 AM on June 19, 2015

Huh. I didn't forsee that fusion at all. And the glorious name!
posted by Slackermagee at 11:32 AM on June 19, 2015

I just like how the episode title refers to both Greg with Steven and Connie and Greg with Rose.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:42 AM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think a solid rule of titling is that titles should always refer to more than one thing at a time. Steven Universe is usually pretty good about that: usually one sense is literal and one sense is metaphorical.

"Rose's Scabbard," for instance, can refer directly to what Lion found, and metaphorically to Pearl herself, who took on the role of Rose's protector. "Alone Together" can be taken both to mean the nature of fusion, and to Stevonnie's experience on the dance floor. Not all the titles have this kind of alternate meaning ("Cat Fingers" and "Frybo" are both pretty on-the-nose), but many of the best ones do.
posted by JHarris at 10:30 AM on June 21, 2015

Realized something today. Garnet's reaction to the possibility of Greg being able to fuse was the same as the possibility of Steven fusing, back in Alone Together! "Well, I think he can do it!" Which it turns out was true both times, but not in the same way....
posted by JHarris at 4:54 PM on June 22, 2015

Pearl's reaction to Stevonnie in Alone Together is so much more loaded now. She was initially put off by it and wanted them to stop, which now comes off as less maternal worrying and more residual resentment towards the concept of gem/human fusion.
posted by almostmanda at 8:40 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I feel like the title doesn't even just refer to the specific situations in the episode but is a general comment on the human condition.

Like, gems can commune with each other, experience each others' minds, by fusing. But us humans? We can't do it that way. We need to talk.

(And sometimes that's enough.)
posted by baf at 7:26 PM on July 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Tumblr comic: "young" Pearl and young Greg quarreling about Rose.
posted by JHarris at 4:09 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's analogous to sex and Sugar is clearly making that comparison, but it's not sex. It's a different kind of intimacy, but not one that is likely to lead to STDs and pregnancy.

Steven Universe uses storyboarding more than writing, but some of what writing there is is handled by Matt Burnett, who has a notoriously sarcastic Twitter account, where he answers, and refuses to answer, and sometimes pretends to answer questions about show lore.

At one point I replied to a tweet conversation he had with another Twitter user about fusion and what it meant. My comment was along the lines of: fusion is too weird to cleanly map to any human relationship. This both makes it very interesting to us humans, and also makes it flexible for use as metaphor, since it can play multiple roles.

Anyway, my reply got a favorite from Burnett himself, so one might see that as being on the right track?

I think this episode is important in one way that hasn't been mentioned before. As has been seen and remarked upon, up to this point Rose loves humans, but is fairly condescending towards them. As the episode that shows us the founding of their real relationship, it also marks the place where Rose began to see more in humans than just how funny they are.

Remember how Rose spoke of how wonderful human beings were in the tape in Lion 3? This is a process of realization that ultimately culminated in Steven himself.
posted by JHarris at 8:45 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is the first time we saw character development with Rose, instead of her being this flawless wonderful goddess figure that everyone loved (except the gem homeworld obv.) She was actually charmed by Greg though, and I like that.
posted by Foosnark at 5:28 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

Rainbow Quartz's dance shows us so much about her character. A fusion of Pearl and Rose, she switches from genuinely flirting with him to teasing him playfully to teasing him antagonistically, and it all just fucking WORKS so well.
posted by duffell at 9:54 PM on March 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

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