Steven Universe – Gem Harvest Review
“You space walnut! You didn’t even keep the family name, but you’re goin’ around givin’ family property out like candy on… some kind of… candy-giving-out holiday?!”
Well, that was underwhelming. Expectations are an odd thing. It can make sense to point blame at the viewer for going into an experience with high expectations, but, much of the time, the providers of that experience also warrant blame for allowing those expectations to take root. When one looks at an episode of Steven Universe where the show is returning from a decently sized hiatus with a two-part episode named Gem Harvest, it might be reasonable to anticipate a significant event episode focusing on the Gems. What we received is a Thanksgiving episode in which we meet one of Greg’s relatives. It isn’t a bad episode, but it is one that I’m likely to skip on rewatch. The new character that we meet doesn’t really work for me, the humor often has an awkward undercurrent and the episode ends with a rather contrived set piece that didn’t work for me from either a logical or emotional standpoint.
The episode starts with Steven visiting Lapis and Peridot to find that they have been farming crops in the land surrounding the barn. They are under the impression that the crops with be sentient, and, not wanting to disappoint them, Steven decides to bring one of the pumpkins to life. These first few minutes feel oddly disconnected from the rest of the episode. They end up using the crops for the purpose of setting up a feast later, but Lapis and Peridot’s misconceptions about their crops feel largely pointless outside of setting up the pumpkin-dog. It’s cute, but beyond that, doesn’t have much of a role in the episode. Gem Harvest starts properly with the arrival of Andy, Greg’s cousin, who initially assumes that Lapis and Peridot are squatting. This ultimately leads to Greg, Steven and the various Gems setting up a dinner to try and sway Andy into allowing Lapis and Peridot to stay in the barn. Andy is purposefully annoying, and, while I understand the idea behind the character, he never really worked for me. He is supposed to represent that distant relative that may have an outlook or values that can drive a wedge during family gatherings. In theory, it might be a good idea for a children’s show to present its audience with such a character so that they can learn how to best interact with them. Unfortunately, it was that abrasiveness which ensured that, when it came time for Andy to have a change of heart and open up to Steven, it all fell flat for me.
Gem Harvest isn’t bad, but, as I implied before, it is very much a victim of circumstance and expectations. I even heard rumors that this episode would feature a Lapis/Peridot fusion, and I don’t tend to keep my ear to the rail for these kinds of things. It’s also worth noting that the last proper double-length episode we had was Bismuth, which I identified as being one of the best episodes from Steven Universe’s best season to date. These factors undoubtedly fueled anticipation for Gem Harvest, and, given its lack of significant developments, I think it is fair to say it fell short. The biggest reveal is that Greg’s original last name was DeMayo. This revelation is used for a decent joke in which Steven exclaims DeMayo is a much cooler name than Universe, but I’m a little disappointed the show felt it was necessary to reveal this information. The idea that Greg changed his name was always there in the back of my mind, but it was probably more fun not knowing.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Andy is voiced by an actor from Aqua Team Hunger Force. This means nothing to me, but it apparently meant something to Jimmy.
- Season 4 has been pretty iffy so far. Mindful Education and Last One out of Beach City are the clear standouts so far, but the rest are all pretty forgettable.
- The set piece that closes out the episode involves Steven not being able to float because of emotional turmoil, I guess. Normally, I’d let it slide, but there was a very clear sense that the only reason he wasn’t able to float was because there wouldn’t be a set piece without it.
- Andy’s humor is based around him being very in-your-face about everything, but not really grasping the situation properly. It never really worked for me, and the problem with this type of humor is that, when it doesn’t work, it’s still in your face and abrasive. An example would be the moment where he concludes that the Gems are hippies, because he learned about hippies from AM radio. It just falls flat, but we still have this loud angry character claiming that he knows what is going on.
I considered giving this episode a slightly higher rating, since, when viewed independently of the circumstances surrounding its release, it is a perfectly functional episode. However, as I stated at the beginning, it's an episode that never really engaged me, and I'm not likely to be rewatching it anytime soon.