Steven Universe – Back to the Barn Review
Back to the Barn is a great Pearl episode. It is probably the best one since Sworn to the Sword, and it finally expands on an implication that fans have been picking apart since The Return. That is to say that we finally receive direct confirmation that Gems are in fact mass produced. Again, like its predecessors, the success of this episode is in part due to Peridot’s chemistry with one of our main characters, but instead of Steven, it’s Pearl that she works off of this time. This is not a combination that I would have expected to work well off one another, but they prove to be more effective as a pairing than I could have anticipated.
As a duo, I was concerned that Peridot and Pearl might be too similar. Both are high strung intellectuals, and their previous interactions tended to err on the side of being rather irritating. The episode kicks off with Peridot and Steven providing an explanation of what the Cluster is to the Gems. They conclude that, in order to deal with the threat, they will need to construct a vessel capable of withstanding the conditions of the Earth’s interior. Peridot starts breaking apart appliances in order to salvage components, but Steven points out that they can use the resources from the barn, like they did back in Space Race. However, as they prepare to design the craft, Peridot dismisses the possibility of Pearl aiding in its construction, stating that that isn’t what Pearls are for. Ever since Jasper called her a “lost, defective Pearl,” fans have been speculating about the potential class-like structure of the home world. This was hinted at again back in Friend Ship, but this is the first time the show has explicitly stated that this is the case. Peridot reveals that Pearls are essentially made-to-order servants with no real expertise. She insists that she is the only one fit to lead the development of the subterranean craft since Pearls are made for taking orders, whereas she was designed to be a technician. With neither one willing to work alongside the other, Steven suggests that they each design a robot as a form of competition to see who is the more capable engineer.
They are both able to quickly assemble giant mechanized suits for the competition, and what follows is essentially a lengthy gag reel of them competing with one another in various challenges. It runs a bit long, but given the fact that most of the jokes land rather solidly (One of the challenges is won by a tree), that’s a relatively minor complaint. The competition ends up being a draw, but Peridot refuses to accept that she and Pearl are on the same level. Pearl finally snaps, going from frantic and annoyed to outright angry, catching even Garnet and Amethyst by surprise as she begins assaulting Peridot’s mech and even punching her in the face. Peridot is ultimately able to defeat Pearl’s robot though, and she proudly declares her victory. She is taken aback, however, when the rest of the Gems rush over to support and congratulate Pearl. Steven explains to her that, for all Peridot’s insistence that Pearl is just a “common Pearl,” that just makes all of Pearl’s accomplishments all the more extraordinary. She ultimately seems to learn her lesson, though I feel the episode might have worked a bit more effectively had it ended about a minute earlier. Peridot seems a bit too quick to take the lesson to heart, and her attempts to mend fences at the end seem to come about a bit too quickly for my liking. Still, it was interesting to see Peridot interact with one of the Gems in a one-on-one manner, and I am curious to see if Steven Universe plans to force her into interactions with Garnet and Amethyst as well.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- “I AM A PEARL!” *Punch!* …So what do you think the odds are that one of the writers for this show might be an Atop the Fourth Wall fan?
- “Stop it! Giant robots shouldn’t fight!”
- I’m wondering what the intended purpose behind Rubies, Sapphires, and Amethysts might be. If I were to guess, Sapphire would make sense as a strategist, and Ruby and Amethyst may have been intended as foot soldiers.
Back to the Barn is an effective and particularly humorous episode that may not provide much in terms of reveals, but serves to provide confirmation of a long standing fan theory. Although the underlying message about not assuming one is inherently superior over others may be a bit basic, it works well enough in context, though Peridot may be a bit too quick to admit her mistake for it to feel completely natural. Nonetheless, it is a great episode for Pearl that informs on the basis of many of her insecurities.
Back to the Barn is a witty and humorous episode that informs on the underlying motivations of one of our main characters, and provides more information on the nature of society on the home world.