Laina Swatek ‘20 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Comic Books Editor
The holidays are just around the corner, and with them comes a bounty of gifts. Steven Universe’s “Gem Harvest” is an episode that’s been a long time coming. After all, its release has been anticipated since the sneak peek given at New York Comic Con back in early October.
Written and storyboarded by Raven Molisee, Paul Villeco, Hilary Florido, and Lauren Zuke- all of whom have been on the ‘Crewniverse since either the first or second season- “Gem Harvest” encapsulates the core values of Steven’s character and the show as a whole: love and acceptance. Once again, Steven Universe proves that it has valuable merit beyond being “just a cartoon.”
The 30-minute special is, in short, the gems’ way of celebrating Thanksgiving. Now, as anyone who has attended a family Thanksgiving knows, things don’t always run as smoothly as you’d like them to. We open on Steven (Zach Callison) visiting Lapis Lazuli (Jennifer Paz) and Peridot (Shelby Rabara) at their new home: a barn in the countryside of Beach City.
Steven finds the two have been growing their own crops, but are expecting the vegetables to be alive. Because their own species is made this way, they thought the same of the plants. Seeing his friends dismayed at their “failure,” Steven uses his life giving spit to bring a pumpkin seed to sentience.
Their fun with the pumpkin pup is quickly brought to a halt, however, as a plane zooms over the fields, and shouting erupts from the barn. We then meet Andy Demayo (Dave Willis), nicknamed Uncle Andy, who is Greg’s (Tom Scharpling) long lost cousin. It turns out he’s the rightful owner of the barn Lapis and Peridot have been inhabiting the past few months, and he is not happy with their ‘renovations’. He’s not only frustrated with the change on his property but the fact that Greg and those around him have changed. He tries to reclaim the barn and instill a sense of family tradition again.
The gang, not willing to let Lapis and Peridot lose their home, decide to find a compromise. Instead of driving Uncle Andy out, the Crystal Gems and company begin to put together a feast of the barn’s crops- and make the new human a little more comfortable along the way.
Of course, they’re gems from an alien planet, so things aren’t flawless. Pearl (Deedee Magno), Peridot, Lapis, and Garnet (Estelle) present a cake, birthday balloon, and tombstone to Andy as in an attempt to, as Pearl puts it, “cover as many celebrations in the human lifespan as we could.” Their hilariously uncomfortable offer works. Andy finally begins to laugh and loosen up.
The climax comes as the Crystal Gems and their human friends sit down for the feast they’ve created. Since the gems don’t really eat, they instead settle on joking about the day and saving the world together. Andy begins to sense the family connection they all share. Solemnly and suddenly, he gets up, tells Lapis and Peridot they can have the barn and leaves the table. This prompts Steven to go after him and find out why. The episode then concludes with their conflict finding its end, and Andy becoming much more accepting than before.
Considering the happenings of our recent 2016 Election, this episode couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. Andy is introduced as a family member who is fearful and hateful towards those different than him and refuses to let his “standard” be challenged. However, instead of attempting to change Andy himself, Steven and the Gems attempt to understand Andy and befriend him so he feels welcome, despite their differences. His growth as a person and character can evolve from there.
This lesson is of equal value for adults and children alike. It strengthens the theme of compassion that Steven Universe has so strongly advocated for. Especially in a show that presents LGBT+ characters/relationships, grieving, and abusive relationships in a realistic and constructive light, it would be too easy to villainize Andy for his views. Not to say that the other characters are completely accepting of Uncle Andy’s opposition. They’re visibly uncomfortable with some of his statements and he (in general) is portrayed as someone the audience doesn’t want to agree with.
Still, “Gem Harvest” trains us to not see the world in black and white. It gives us suggestions and coping mechanisms for interacting with those with major differences in thinking.
Beyond the grander image, “Gem Harvest” managed to fit in a whole box of jokes alongside the heavy plot. From Pearl suggesting they all just “marry each other” to Lapis joking about her time being trapped in the mirror, the episode certainly wasn’t short on humor.
This episode is certainly focused around dialogue and cute montages, which is unique to this special, as others include lots of action. This discrepancy can lead to the episode feeling rushed and underwhelming- especially with so many other major plot points going on in the Universe.
Hopefully, Steven Universe can return with a bigger bang and finally find a regular air schedule.