'Steven Universe' Review: "Catch and Release"

Alexandra St. Jacques ’18 / Emertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer

The creator of Steven Universe, Rebecca Sugar, is known for blindsiding fans with a plot-laden episode wrapped up in very pretty filler packaging. On this week’s episode of Steven Universe, entitled, “Catch and Release,” she does it again in an artful and addicting way that both frustrates fans and leaves them wanting more.

“Catch and Release” largely focused on Peridot (Shelby Rabara), the surprisingly lovable antagonist gem from Homeworld bent on getting off “this lousy Gem-forsaken planet.” However, with no word back from Yellow Diamond and Jasper (Kimberly Brooks), who are trapped at the bottom of the ocean with Lapis Lazuli (Jennifer Paz), Peridot’s only option is to turn back to the Crystal Gems in the hopes that Steven’s (Zach Callison) healing saliva can repair the Homeworld warp pad. Unable to help, Steven apologizes to Peridot while she breaks down in fear over the impending emergence of the Cluster, an ominously named force that will destroy the earth.

Before Peridot has the chance to explain to Steven what exactly the Cluster is, the Crystal Gems race to Steven’s side and force Peridot to retreat into her gem, which Garnet (Estelle) then bubbles and poofs into the Temple. Peridot’s prosthetic limbs are left behind, and the Gems push these into the ocean before returning to Beach City. Upon their return, Steven uses Rose’s (Susan Egan) room to access the basement where poofed bubbles go and frees Peridot to figure out what she knows about the Cluster. Unwilling to give up any information and trapped in her considerably smaller form without her limb enhancements, Peridot escapes into the house, where the Crystal Gems and Steven corner her into the bathroom.

Photo Credit: Cartoon Network
Photo Credit: Cartoon Network

The Gems briefly consider poofing her again before realizing that she offers more value as she is rather than trapped in her gem in the Temple basement. The Gems continue their deliberation into the next morning, while Steven offers Peridot her prosthetic foot back in return for use of the bathroom. Peridot cautiously lets him in and he assures her that he does not want to hurt her but wants to help her against the Cluster. Peridot pessimistically points out that it is unlikely for Steven to be of any help, but she shows gratitude for the offer.  In the end of the episode, Peridot is living in Steven’s bathroom.

This is quite the whirlwind from an episode whose synopsis was, “[Fans will] finally see inside Steven’s bathroom.”

Though the episode rushes right into the action when Peridot kidnaps Steven, this is a very good move to progress the story along given the short run-time of episodes.  As a viewer, it is both stunning and exhilarating. It knocks the audience off balance from the beginning, making it clear that nothing is to be anticipated. 

Although Peridot in the episode acts as the textbook definition of the overly serious yet cutesy villain trope, audience members are reasonably able to expect further development of her character since she now lives with the Crystal Gems. This will provide much more ability to develop her style, as opposed to keeping her cut off from interaction, both with the Crystal Gems and the rest of humanity.

Photo Credit: Cartoon Network
Photo Credit: Cartoon Network

The most interesting part of the episode is the phrase that Sugar dangles in front of the audience’s nose, only to pull it away when they get too close — The Cluster. Peridot comes close to telling Steven several times what exactly the Cluster is, but she never gives away enough detail to make a comfortable assumption.

Given the context of the episode, it may be safe to assume that the Cluster has something to do with the fusion experiments seen earlier in the season both in Kindergarten and in the hospital. When not in their monstrous half-fused form of variously sized limbs, the crystals that make up the fusion experiments form small clusters of gems. As an audience, it may very well be that all information has been given to figure out exactly what the Cluster is. Could it be that the Cluster is a huge, but successful, gem fusion experiment incubating in Kindergarten that’s intended to destroy the earth?  Why would Yellow Diamond want the earth destroyed so badly?

Answers may be on their way with this week’s episode airing on October 1, entitled “When It Rains.” Until then, let’s just keep imagining Peridot living comfortably in Steven’s bathroom.

Steven Universe airs Thursdays on Cartoon Network.

Episode Grade: B+

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