Steven Universe is a show jampacked with so many good characters that your favorite one probably changes from week to week. But while last night’s episode did a lot of fantastic stuff, its greatest success was taking Peridot, the closest the show currently has to a recurring villain, and making her the star.
Spoilers ahead, of course.
“Catch and Release” was a notable break from the first two episodes we’ve had since Steven Universe returned, and a notable break for the series as a whole—it feels like it’s been ages since the overall storyline of the show has actually progressed (even if admittedly it progresses very, very slowly here). But overall the episode was essentially the greatest hits of Steven Universe wrapped into 11 minutes: some new lore and story advancement, some great character moments, and a lot (a lot) of laughs.
The whole episode revolved around the Crystal Gems finally capturing Peridot, after the wayward Homeworld Gem kidnapped Steven in an attempt to get off Earth. Ever since Peridot arrived on the scene, it’s been assumed that she wanted to leave Earth just because she despised the planet—but as we learn when Steven decides to “un-poof” the captured Gem, Peridot wants out because something is coming that could mean there’s not going to be an Earth left in the near future.
It’s a minor thing, but has a lot of far-reaching implications for a threat beyond Homeworld for the show. So far the conflict has been derived from Peridot and Jasper’s presence on Earth, but now that there’s something else sinister hidden on the planet, whatever this “Cluster” ends up being, it gives the Gems something else to work towards. It also seemingly means that, for now, Peridot may actually want to work with them after she accepts Steven’s offer of help at the end of the episode.
We actually get to learn a lot about Peridot beyond her goofy ownership of her role as the villainous foil to the Gems—and not only does it make her ridiculously lovable (Steven’s description of her as an “angry slice of pie” is perfect), but also a lot more understandable, too. She’s not fighting the Crystal Gems because she’s from Homeworld and they’re traitors to the cause—although that’s part of it—it’s mainly because they want to stop her from getting back home, and she’s alone, afraid, and trapped on a planet that apparently might be doomed. It was her first mission away from Homeworld, and it quickly turned into a nightmare... and it’s kind of sad. Or, it would be sad, if Peridot wasn’t busy being so damn hilarious as she tries to navigate Earth (her reaction to the bathroom she locks herself in as an “archaic think chamber... roomy, with a fresh hint of Earth citrus” is just of several great bits) on her lonesome.
Peridot was never the most dastardly villain, but she’s suddenly a lot more sympathetic in this episode, especially as she begins opening up to Steven—even if she’s not entirely trusting of the Crystal
Clods Gems just yet. An uneasy alliance? Sure, but at least it is one, and we get to see more of this more sympathetic Peridot in upcoming episodes.
And getting more Peridot hopefully means we get a lot more funny moments too, which “Catch and Release” was just laden with, mostly thanks to her. Recently Steven Universe has been dealing with some heady stuff, with the belly laughs few and far between. This episode is just non-stop laughs and goofballery, all while delivering on softening Peridot and advancing the story.
There’s the above moment when the Gems see Peridot without her limb-extenders for the first time, or further above, when she tries to flush herself down the toilet. Peridot and Steven’s slap fight in the temple. Pearl laughing at the suggestion they keep Peridot on a leash, before immediately considering it. Every line Amethyst has is gold. There’s so much more, but as much as it’s great to see Steven Universe deal with more serious and emotional stories, it’s equally great to see the show just bursting with fun. It’s a joy to watch this show when it’s firing on all cylinders, and it really shows in episodes like this.
It’s clear that “Catch and Release”, as good as it was on its own, is the start of something more for the show—a new threat, a new arc, and maybe even a new ally. Let’s hope whatever comes of it for Steven, the Gems and now Peridot, it’s as delightfully fun as this episode was.