02nd Oct2015

‘Steven Universe 2×22: When It Rains’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“It’s just thunder. It happens when it rains.”

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‘When It Rains’ is an old story: a spiky, unpleasant person learns to accept help and to open up to those around them. It’s a little shopworn, a little canned, but it’s still a pleasant quarter hour and a successful about-face for a character who looked headed for ineffectual Saturday Morning Cartoon villainy. If it has a real weakness it’s not that its story has been told before but that it can’t let its moments land without indulging in its own preciousness. Moments like Steven posing after Garnet tells him that she loves him turn the organic into the contrived, though a prostrate Steven reaching automatically for Peridot’s hand after the two fall off a cliff is a great example of how emotionally deft the show can be at its best.

Motivated by fear after a thunder storm reduces her to a shivering wreck, Peridot tells Steven that the world is an incubator for a massive shard fusion known as the Cluster. When it awakens it will shatter the Earth and then presumably do a bunch of horrific stuff that won’t matter much to the dead. Peridot takes advantage of the Gems’ departure to convince Steven to take her to the Kindergarten where she hopes to ascertain the Cluster’s status and then, with Steven’s earthling know-how to aid her, halt its genesis. It’s difficult to feel sympathy for someone who had no qualms about the Earth’s destruction until she was forced to share its fate, but Shelby Rabara does a great job injecting depth and life into Peridot as she moves from terrified to miserable to impatient to brash over the episode’s course. Her irritated defense of Steven feels earned and authentic, an abrasive and unconscious gesture of loyalty, if not friendship.

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The lighting in the beach house during the storm’s first moments are a real treat. Water streaking the window panes, shadows falling in bars across the kitchen; it’s wonderfully subtle and instantly familiar to anyone who relishes the feeling of watching storms break from the comfort of an open, airy space. The empty vistas of the Kindergarten are similarly gorgeous, heavy with somber menace. Revisiting that location, with its unmistakable aura of horror (the holes from which the Gems emerged are a direct reference to Junji Ito’s skin-crawling Uzumaki), has paid strong dividends and centering the season’s overarching threat in its barren expanse is a smart move. As Steven says, “This place just gets worse every time I come here.”

Peridot may be an odious functionary of a tyrannical empire, but she holds the key to the world’s survival. Her eventual grudging explanation to the Gems of what awaits them sets the stage for a fascinating redemptive arc and the action scene preceding hers and Steven’s rescue by the Gems is brisk and fluid. The episode may think too much of its cuter elements, but it’s gorgeous even by the series’ high standards and it deepens the connection between Steven and Peridot in a subtle, believable way. It also has Pearl reassuring Amethyst that the force primed to destroy the world is almost certainly not crunchy granola clusters.

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