25th Sep2015

‘Steven Universe 2×21: Catch and Release’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“You’re like…an angry little slice of pie.”

‘Catch and Release’ is a quiet, laid-back episode with much more to recommend it than the series last two entries. It gives Peridot some much-needed depth without resorting to making her likable, boasts an impressive array of gorgeous backgrounds, and makes a meager stab toward setting the stage for season 2′s overarching plot. The episode’s main thrust, though, is the establishment of a tentative connection between Peridot and Steven. It lays its groundwork well, first giving us a glimpse at Peridot’s weaselly desperation to escape a planet she knows is about to get wrecked and then revealing her status as a shortstack and general nerd in Gem society. Her assignment with Jasper was some kind of final shot at dignity for her, and now she’s stuck in a basement without her prosthetics and getting in slap fights with children. What a life.

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The Crystal Gems feature after two weeks on the back bench, but aside from beating on Peridot and resisting Steven’s urge to communicate with her there isn’t a whole lot for them to do. Their attempting to stop or dissuade Steven from reaching out to an enemy is hardly the worst case of that particular plot in the show’s history, but it feels dog-eared at this point. Touching briefly on something called the Cluster, presumably a buried or dormant mass of Gems(my guess is the mutants incubated in the Kindergarten) created during the first war and scheduled to burst forth in apocalyptic fashion, the episode flirts with expanding Gem mythology and getting into the worst crimes of the long-ago civil war. That ‘Catch and Release’ doesn’t engage with these ideas leaves its pace decompressed and its mood quiet, but it’s time well spent on the whole.

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The image of Peridot huddled in a bathroom and clinging to her ruined prosthetic leg would be stronger had she ever really felt like a credible threat, but it remains affecting. “What a great souvenir of that other time you assaulted me,” she snarls at Steven, but she can’t and won’t let go of the last remnant of her shell. The episode’s ending is a quiet anticlimax, a deflation mirroring Peridot’s as she interrogates Steven about whether his comb, toothbrush, and other toiletries are weapons. Showing her as simultaneously motivated by fear of violence and a strong desire to be part of a powerful, violent upper class is a nuanced way to portray the social forces that shape the frightened into the cruel.

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