16th Oct2015

‘Steven Universe 2×21: Too Far’ Review

by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“You stayed in the ground too long.”

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‘Too Far’ concerns itself with the concept of the ideal Gem as seen through the lens of Homeworld culture. It isn’t Pearl, created to serve. Garnet’s unending fusion likewise makes her unsuitable. In Peridot’s eyes it’s Amethyst, the gang’s perennial screw-up and slacker, who most closely fits the mold. Even then, though, it turns out she’s stunted. She stayed too long in the ground and what should have been a towering soldier quartz emerged as stubby, confused Amethyst. It’s an interesting idea, reawakening Amethyst’s insecurities with the knowledge that she’s literally malformed, and placing it alongside Peridot’s fumbling, desperate attempts to make friends doubles down on the idea of lonely children struggling toward adulthood in the shadow of impossible standards.

The episode’s title could reference any number of things. Peridot’s thoughtless insults toward Amethyst after they bond briefly over Peridot’s shrill, nattering sense of humor. The activities of the Gems who built the Kindergarten. Amethyst’s too-long incubation in the cliff, or even the rules and regulations that bind Gem society to such rigid views of perfection. It could also refer to the show’s unfortunate tendency to package too-similar episodes alongside one another, and to seek an emotional resolution to every possible problem. Following last week’s ‘Back to the Barn’ in which Peridot and Pearl find common ground with one another with an episode in which Peridot and Amethyst do the same is overkill, and the end result(while stronger and better integrated into the season’s arc than ‘Back to the Barn’) is extremely formulaic.

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The episode begins with the Gems completing assembly on their drill, the device they intend to use to reach and disable the ominous Cluster. Peridot has been largely shunted aside, leashed to a fence by Garnet who in this episode is a stoic cowpoke. Honestly, the joke is good enough that the lack of payoff doesn’t matter. What confuses is the sudden focus on security, chaining Peridot up when last week she was allowed to build a warbot. Letting Steven and Amethyst take her to the Kindergarten to get a drill head from one of those creepy phage-looking things gives the episode a chance to look at Peridot’s hunger to be liked. Amethyst finds her amusing, attention she laps up readily, but her pointing out Amethyst’s imperfect state ruptures the fragile connection.

Peridot saving Amethyst from the out-of-control drill and then reaching a tentative understanding by admitting her own imperfection is a dull retread of her reaching out to Pearl in ‘Back to the Barn.’ Why the show feels a need to bring Peridot to some flavor of resolution on each of her ingrained and unpleasant beliefs in such a slow, plodding manner is beyond me. More and more, Steven Universe‘s second season feels like a misfire.

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