Steven Universe – Message Received Review
“I want my Cluster, and I want that planet to die. Just make that happen.”
Well that certainly went an interesting direction. Message Received proves to be an excellent episode for Peridot, as she finds a flaw where she least expected to find one. The episode picks up right where It Could’ve Been Great left off. The Gems are discussing the possibility of running tests to make sure the drill operates correctly, but Steven is concerned due to the item that he witnessed Peridot taking from the command console on the Moon. As such, the episode also continues to build upon the subject of where Peridot’s loyalties lie as she tries to cope with her conflicting feelings. In fact, one could argue that this episode serves as a fitting conclusion to that particular character arc.
As Steven quickly finds out, the object that Peridot brought with her is a transmitter used for contacting the Diamonds. When Steven confronts her about it, she admits that she was going to use it to contact Yellow Diamond, but claims that it is for the best and that she became distracted by her interactions with the Crystal Gems and overlooked the logical solution. Because she views the Diamonds as flawless entities, she is certain that this is the key to finding a way of resolving the issue of the Cluster. Now, from the beginning, Peridot has always been about locating the logical solution to a problem. As a villain, she was primarily focused on completing her mission and delivering her report. She rarely felt malicious or angry unless something interrupted that process, so it makes sense for the character that she would be falling back on her logic to try and rectify her internal conflict.
For Peridot, the problem comes about when she discovers that Yellow Diamond does not care about logical alternatives. It results in what is most certainly a great moment for Peridot, but a rather undignified one for Yellow Diamond. In fact, it is the presentation of Yellow Diamond that served as Message Received’s biggest flaw. As a villain, she has been built up for nearly thirty episodes (more if you count the three season one episodes that aired this season), and while most of her appearance in this episode involves a cold disinterest that works in favor of the character, there is a single reaction shot in which she reacts to an insult that simply does not work. It may seem like an odd nitpick, but this is a character for whom we have had a ton of suspense built, and the show almost succeeded in pulling off her introduction despite the significant anticipation. However, that image of her face instantly overrides the moments that preceded it, and her image doesn’t quite recover. Personally, I feel that presenting her as cold and distant while still wrathful might have worked, but instead she ended up looking a bit too silly for it to succeed.
Before I wrap up a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- We also get a look at Yellow Diamond’s Pearl, who I believe is the first Pearl that we’ve seen voiced aside from our main one. Like Pearl, Yellow Pearl is also voiced by Deedee Magno, though she approaches the voice in a manner that it is similar but distinctly different.
- Yellow Diamond is voiced by singer/actress Patti LuPone (Witness, Driving Miss Daisy, Oz, 30 Rock) and she does a splendid job. Though I may have harped on the visual presentation of the character, I had absolutely no problem with the vocal performance which seemed spot on.
- So there is a sliver of a sneak peek online that shows that Lapis will be returning. I am very eager to see when and how that is implemented.
Despite a somewhat undignified moment for Yellow Diamond, Message Received still stands as an extremely strong episode for Peridot. It serves to alter the group dynamic significantly, and it will be interesting to see how the show approaches this going forward.