The New Crystal Gems
So now we get to see what Connie, Peridot and Lapis, and Pumpkin were up to during the Out of this World arc. And no, we didn’t quite get anything particularly groundbreaking from the episode, there was no Lapis/Peridot fusion or any serious threats to Beach City while the team were gone, which should have been what we expected. But still, Steven Universe and “underwhelming” have never been two words that fit with each other, and The New Crystal Gems was far from underwhelming.
The episode still has to take place from Steven’s point of view in some way, so we still have it told us through Connie telling the story to Steven as soon as he returns. We get a very basic setup for the episode wherein Connie goes to Steven’s house and meets with Lapis and Peridot, and the Pumpkin dog making their second appearance. Although they have been briefly onscreen with each other before, this is the first real time that Connie has truly interacted with either of these characters before, meaning that the interaction between them is a little shaky at first but they do manage to come to an agreement when they decide to become the titular “New Crystal Gems”.
More specifically, they decide to completely recreate the individual Gems, with Peridot taking on the role of Garnet (because that’s the role everyone would want) by sporting sunglasses, Lapis becomes Amethyst, being the only one of them to truly get into character by imitating the voice and covering one of her eyes with her hair. Pumpkin is Pearl by wearing a cone nose, and Connie, being the human of the group, takes on the role of Steven, t-shirt and all. And from that premise, the episode becomes a part-parody of the series itself, with the respective characters almost mocking the other characters mannerisms while also satirising the fans of the series, which they are portrayed as here.
It’s a premise that does make sense, Peridot and Lapis being fans of that “Camp Pining Hearts” show, and Connie being an audience surrogate character who in her early appearances lived in awe of Steven. If any characters are going to serve as stand ins for the fans, it would be these characters. Ronaldo may have also been a fitting choice for a satire of the fandom, but the episode isn’t really intending to insult it’s fanbase like that.
Of course, within the episode itself, the problem arises shortly after they decide to save Beach City by taking Greg’s place at the car wash. Initially, this is successful when the two Gems use their powers to assist in washing the car (Peridot’s magnetic abilities which are growing stronger it seems, and Lapis’ water abilities) and Connie and Pumpkin uses a giant cloth to dry the car. The day after, when Connie wakes up from Steven’s bed, wearing his clothes, a larger line comes to the car wash just to experience their fantastical abilities. This time it’s less successful however, when Peridot and Lapis seem to take their respective roles a little too seriously, Lapis in particular takes the advice to “crack some jokes” like Amethyst would too far when she uses her water abilities to splash everyone, and then Peridot’s determination to get the job done causes her to pick up the cars by force.
After the situation escalates, and Lapis decides to take on Garnet’s role instead (her impersonation is hilarious) Connie tries to take on the Steven role of fixing the situation, once again making fun of the series formula by having her do a weak imitation of one of Steven’s speeches about love and stuff. “She didn’t even cry” responds Peridot. This moment actually does tie nicely to the message of the episode, Connie tries to fix the situation by copying Steven, but the group’s attempt to imitate the other Gems is what got them into this mess in the first place, and thus it doesn’t really work.
Peridot, being the one who has been put in charge this whole time, tries to place the blame on everyone else, critiquing the other’s performances. Again, Lapis was the only one who was actually putting any effort into imitation the other Gems, but Peridot points out that she lacks Amethyst’s sense of humour. The comparisons between characters in this episode lead to an all too accurate comparison between Peridot and Pearl, which I would is accurate to the extent that Peridot is a lot like a teenage version of Pearl (“I’m Leaving!”).
And inevitably, Connie is the one who has to fix everything. Peridot is right when she points out that she lacks Steven’s sentimentality, but what she does have is a sense of practicality which encourages her to tell them the truth, that they are not the Crystal Gems, instead they are their own individuals, and should thus act according to such. Yes, even in a silly little filler episode about the side characters taking a job at a car wash we still get deep character introspection, which does work equally as well as the satirical side of the episode. So Connie uses her intellect and pragmatism to come up with the plan, Lapis and Peridot use their creative skills to build a new sign for the car wash, and Pumpkin is small and cute.
The New Crystal Gems is a nice little episode, allowing the side characters to get some good development with each other, especially Connie who probably came out of this having learned the biggest lesson out of all of them. It works well as both an examination of the characters, how their longing to live up to the Crystal Gems distracts them from being able to focus on themselves, and it works well as a loving satire of the series, and the more positive side of it’s fandom. For what we got, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
If you were disappointed that this episode was too calm for your taste, next episode looks set to delve even deeper into the series than we are even now at this point.