Reviews

TV Review: Steven Universe S01E49 “Jailbreak”

We last left Steven Universe with our eponymous protagonist getting punched in the face so hard he fell unconscious, one of his guardians presumed dead, and his other two guardians in immediate danger from Gems much more powerful than them.  That’s the tone “Jailbreak” is beginning with, and it’s pretty bleak for the Crystal Gems right about now. In fact, we get a brief but effective visual cue that things are going to be different this episode; the title card is just swirling galaxies in space rather than its  usual temple hand and Steven’s laundry.

Steven wakes up in a prison cell with a black eye, roused by the sound of a beautiful singing voice. He looks around and shouts for Amethyst and Pearl before he has a flashback to Garnet destabilizing into nothing before his eyes. He whispers her name in a panic, getting up and pushing against the wall of his prison. As he does, we can hear faintly the sound of someone shouting in pain. He stops to look at the glowing yellow veins that lace the ceiling and the futuristic, chrome interior of the hand ship.

The prison wall gives way for him, but not without sending ugly yellow electric glow up his veins that makes him shudder. Steven doesn’t seem to notice that Garnet had the exact same veins cracking her body when she destabilized—he’s just glad to be out of his prison.

He skids to a stop in front of the first living being he comes across on the ship, asking if they’re all right. The Gem jumps in shock, looking around before looking up at Steven and asking how he got out. Steven tries to show them how he did it before they try to stop him in a panic. He touches the wall and the unknown Gem is shocked. As they demonstrate, they can’t touch the wall without destabilizing.

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Steven shrugs it off, showing that it’s safe to touch, presumably because of his half-human side. The Gem, Ruby, begs him to let them out, because she needs to find Sapphire—she’s all alone and she needs her! Ruby’s absolutely desperate to find her friend Sapphire.

Pokemon jokes aside, Steven lets her out and follows after Ruby, who is running towards the sound of the soft, beautiful voice we now know is Sapphire’s. She doesn’t know where Sapphire is, and she says she can’t see, but she doesn’t touch her eyes—she clutches her forehead. It’s not that she’s physically blind, but it seems like she’s lost some form of mental clarity, which will make sense later on.

Steven stops to look out the window as they search for Sapphire, and we and Steven both get our first glimpse of the outside world at the moment. We’re not on Earth anymore—we’re in the middle of space, heading back to Homeworld in a giant green hand.

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We don’t have much time to reflect on that, because Ruby is impatient and in a panic about finding Sapphire before she’s hurt. Ruby and Steven run off and before they find Sapphire, they run into a familiar face—Lapis Lazuli, imprisoned on the ship. The tiny ocean princess is trapped, and Steven’s first and immediate impulse is to help his beach summer fun buddy.  Except Lapis doesn’t want his help.

The two of them have a conversation that effectively boils down to Lapis not wanting to rebel against Peridot and Jasper because she’s afraid of their wrath, and Steven wanting to rebel against them for the exact reasons Lapis is afraid to fight them. Lapis is terrified of making things worse for herself, which, given that Lapis spent five millennia in a mirror, makes you wonder what the hell Peridot and Jasper are capable of doing.

But even without that grim thought, it’s a sad conversation—Steven is full of hope and idealism and optimism because he’s never gone up against a foe he couldn’t fight. Lapis is probably closer to a war veteran crippled with PTSD given all the things she’s been through, and she’s afraid of being hurt further. She doesn’t know if she’s strong enough to fight and if she’s not, all she’s in for is more suffering. She’s not a coward, she’s scared, and there’s a big difference after you’ve been hurt.

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Steven doesn’t get mad at her; he just promises he’ll come back for her, which is oddly touching. He doesn’t have the time to do much more than that, but it’s still a promise that he cares about Lapis and doesn’t think less of her for being afraid. He leaves after Ruby, following her through the ship until Peridot storming through the halls with Jasper prompts Steven to bolt and hide.

He overhears the two of them debating what to do with him and Peridot insists on keeping to the mission and that “the whole point of coming here was to check on the Cluster,” a new gadget or location we have yet to learn more about. Jasper tells Peridot that Steven and the Rose Quartz Gem is of higher priority and storms off after yelling at Sapphire to stop singing, ordering Peridot to head back to Homeworld. Steven flattens himself against the wall as Peridot complains about how Earth was supposed to be an easy job.

Steven waits for both Gems to be gone before bolting through the ship and stopping in front of another prison cell. A tiny blue Gem with a big blunt fringe and a cute blue dress is singing, stopping only when Steven asks if she’s Sapphire. He helps her out of the prison, once again putting himself under destabilizing stress to the point where his entire body is warped with pain. His human half is helping him survive, but only just. Sapphire doesn’t actually seem surprised like his ability to do that, unlike Ruby—her response to Steven having escaped is a simple “Of course.”  And she knows his name on top of everything!

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Sapphire grabs Steven by the arm, leading him quickly through the ship, and she and Steven make their way down the hall. Across from them, standing on the other side of the hall, Ruby finds them, shouting Sapphire’s name. Sapphire calls her name in kind and the two rush toward one another, embracing.

A sweet conversation ensues as Ruby asks, “Did they hurt you?” Sapphire shakes her head, replying, “No, no, I’m okay! Did they hurt you?” Ruby’s equally touching and painful response? “Who cares!”

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Sapphire kisses the tears that spill from Ruby’s eyes, a tender moment that the camera focuses on for as long as it can. Sapphire fits in as much sapphic content as possible with Ruby before Steven watches the two of them embrace and twirl one another around, laughing in delight at their reunion. Their bodies glow and swirl and their laughter becomes deeper and warmer, more familiar…

Garnet leaps into the air, joyful, before landing down on the ground in front of Steven.

The theory that Garnet was a fusion Gem had been tossed around by the fanbase every so often, but I had somehow missed most of that discussion and was legitimately surprised by this development—which is nice, given that it happens so rarely for me these days, what with spoilers and getting savvier with foreshadowing. Garnet is a fusion! How cool is that? So cool! It’s just really exciting to be shocked by something in a show. Her huge trio of eyes are now colored to signify the reveal—where she once had tiny black dots for pupils, her eyes are now blue, red, and purple! Her gems rather than just being red are also colored to match the reveal now that it won’t be a visual giveaway.

Steven is as surprised by this as the audience—or at least, I was. Garnet apologizes and says she’s sorry, she didn’t want the three of them to meet like this. Steven gets bashful, looking away as he shrugs and asks, “Well? Did I make a good first impression?”

Garnet’s eyes soften and her voice is loving, full of maternal warmth as she cups his cheek and promises him, “Oh, Steven. We already love you.”

I love that line so much, I really do. It’s probably my favorite line in all of Steven Universe. There’s so much behind that simple sentence and it means so much and Garnet loves Steven and Ruby and Sapphire love Steven! Steven is so full of love!

This beautiful moment is interrupted by Jasper. Thanks, Jasper, for continuing to be literally the worst. Garnet straightens up and looms over her tiny charge as she says to Steven, “It’s Jasper—go, and get the others.”

Steven asks how he’ll be able to find them, and Garnet pecks him gently on the forehead to give him her “third sight.” Steven sees Pearl and Amethyst and asks if Garnet will be okay fighting Jasper alone. Garnet’s response? “It’s okay, Steven. I’m never alone.”

He runs away and Jasper enters the room. Their reaction is one of disgust as they exclaim, “You’re both out? And you’re fused again? Why? Fusion is just a cheap tactic to make weak Gems strong! I’ve seen what you really are!”

(Actually, given that in “Alone Together,” it’s treated like a weird form of alien intimacy, it’s…a little more than that, which explains Jasper’s “shameless display” line from the previous episode.)

Garnet just shrugs and grins, and music starts up behind her, and suddenly, this entire sequence is the most awesome in the entire show thus far, and nothing’s even happened yet.

The reason? Well, Garnet is voiced by Estelle. Estelle is a fabulous professional singer with a beautiful voice, and given that this show has had both Amethyst and Pearl, as well as Steven and Greg, sing something, Garnet’s glaring absence of a song was noted, especially due to her voice actress. I’ve been waiting since, like, episode two for Garnet to sing something.

It’s totally worth it.

I’m just going to link to the song because transcribing it would be useless, but it has to be listened to, as long as you don’t mind spoilers.

For people who don’t have time or are at work, here’s what happens: Estelle basically gets into an epic rap battle and completely curbstomps the competition.

Yeah. Totally, totally worth a nearly fifty episode wait.

The fight sequence involved is also gorgeous, just because Jasper’s fighting style is so brutal and Garnet’s suddenly a lot more nimble and agile than normal. Given her hue has changed from a burgundy to a rich red-violet, I wonder if it’s got something to do with the dominant Gem in her fusion. She seems pretty clearly both 50/50 Ruby and Sapphire as well as her own person, but perhaps aspects can be emphasized differently for every fusion and re-fusion?

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In any case, Steven busts Pearl and Amethyst out, and they rush to the control room to pick a fight with Peridot. My only disappointment is that this too did not end in a rap battle. Peridot sounded like they were going to start singing, though—maybe it was cut for time? Please let there be more musical smackdowns on this show. I don’t ask for a lot from an already stellar show but come on.

Something I’m a little concerned about as Pearl, Amethyst, and Steven reclaim the ship is that Pearl sinks her hands into the control feed and her eyes go all buggy with binary. Granted, Peridot’s eyes looked the same, but it seems to be affecting Pearl more strongly, and given the “defective Pearl” crack prior to this episode, I reserve the right to be concerned about Pearl.

And another thing—Steven just snaps Peridot’s destabilizer-tazer in half! Like, I get that he’s half human, but that has to be putting so much strain on his gem! He looks like he’s in way too much pain for that to be okay for him to do, and he just keeps doing it!

As the song continues, Jasper proves they’re not only a cheeto-colored Jem expy but also apparently Sonic, as they perform a spin dash and drive Garnet into the ship. She shrugs it off and finishes the song, throwing Jasper through the walls and down into the power system a la M. Bison’s fate in the Street Fighter film. As the power fizzles, the ship starts to self-destruct.

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Steven asks about Lapis as soon as Garnet returns and tells them they need to get out, but Garnet tells him there’s no time, and they crash against the temple before anyone can get out except for Peridot, who left on an escape bubble.

Lion races across the devastated landscape and, seemingly able to sense Steven’s presence—or perhaps that of his gem—roars some rocks away from the four of them where they sit curled in one of Steven’s bubble shields.

As Garnet praises him, Steven exclaims that he’s so surprised that she’s a Fusion all the time! Amethyst seems shocked that he met Ruby and Sapphire and Pearl apologizes. Garnet says they were going to wait for his birthday. Steven promises to act surprised if they want to do it anyway, and it’s a really sweet family moment, interrupted by Jasper, again, who is making a habit of this like it’s their hobby.

Jasper spits at Garnet that they could have won if they’d had someone to fuse with too. Hey, guess who survived the ship crash!

Jasper grabs Lapis as she tries to fly away in a panic, pulling her down before her ocean wings can spirit her away. Jasper grabs Lapis by the arm and says, “Aww, don’t fly off so soon!”

Steven screams for Lapis as Pearl and Amethyst hold him back. Jasper holds Lapis up and says, “Listen, fuse with me!” When Lapis sounds baffled, Jasper grabs her by the chin and tilts her face towards theirs, uncomfortably close and starting to sound predatory. Lapis trembles in her grip as Jasper reminds her, “How long did they keep you locked up on this miserable hunk of rock?”

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Jasper drops her and Lapis hits the ground, shaking. Jasper looms over her as they remind her, “These Gems, they’re traitors to their Homeworld! They kept you prisoner, they used you! This is your chance to take revenge!”

We cut to Lapis and Steven watching each other before Jasper’s face fills the screen and they leer, urging Lapis, “Come on…just say yes.”

Given what fusion is implied to be and what it stands for, and also the fact that Jasper is taking up all of Lapis’ personal space during this entire scene, this is pretty heavily made out to be some kind of coerced rape. It’s…really upsetting, actually? And creepy as hell. It doesn’t help that Steven’s begging Lapis not to do it.

Lapis offers her hand to Jasper without a word and Steven screams. The brief dance that follows is beautifully animated but that’s not the point right now. Jasper gives a nightmare smile in triumphant glee and their bodies merge, changing.

Okay, here’s the thing; it’s implied that the amount of arms a Fusion Gem has indicates compatibility, or lack thereof, as well as size and vocals. Garnet has two arms because Ruby and Sapphire are each other’s “other half,” or soulmate, and her voice has no discordance. Opal has four because Amethyst and Pearl aren’t soulmates, but they’re friends and comrades. Stevonnie had two because they were more human than Gem, but also because Steven and Connie are best friends!  Size also seems to come into play, as Opal is taller than Garnet, and Sugilite is even taller than them both and sporting four arms.

Malachite has six arms and no legs. Malachite also makes the Temple look tiny, and when they laugh, it’s a horrifying echoing sound.

So it’s clear this is not a healthy fusion from the start, if the ominous music and discordant voices weren’t a dead giveaway. Malachite begins to summon ocean water up from the depths and I admit, I panicked. I was so worried Lapis was going to perform a full face heel turn, and I was rightfully concerned for her!

The hand she brings up from the depths, however, turns into a chain, snapping around Malachite’s wrist. Then another around the other wrist, then around her chest. Jasper’s voice comes through as she demands to know what Lapis is doing, and Lapis drags her into the ocean as Malachite.

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Lapis delivers one of the saddest and best monologues in the show thus far as she drags Jasper away: “I’m done being everyone’s prisoner. Now you’re my  prisoner—and I’m never letting you go!”

As she drags Jasper down with her into the deep, she says, “Let’s stay on this miserable planet together forever!”

And then, silence.

The scene starts to look like an End of Evangelion reference, given that the team remains standing on the deserted, debris-covered beach after a giant creature just disappeared into the ocean. It’s definitely deliberate because this show is staffed by a bunch of enormous weaboos, (see “Steven the Sword Fighter” and “Rose’s Room” for further details.)

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Garnet is the first one to say something, and her response? “Yikes.”

There’s another beat before she adds, “Those two were not good for each other.”

Now I admit, I’m really worried about Lapis, but I don’t think she’s dead or gone forever. Given that she’s an ocean based Gem, I would bet good money she can survive immense amounts of pressure—moreso than other Gems can before their gems crack. I’m figuring she’s going to drag Jasper down as far as she can, de-fuse, and let Jasper shatter before escaping. Forgive me if I think Jasper definitely deserves it.

Also, Steven’s watched enough of his friends die in front of him— all of the Crystal Gems have suffered either temporary death or horrific dismemberment in front of him, and Lapis straight-up dying for real in front of the poor kid is a little much! I have faith in Lapis’ survival, but I worry nonetheless.

The Gems stare off into the ocean, shocked, and Steven’s phone starts to go off, his ringtone jarringly cheerful in the midst of the destruction. He picks it up and the last thing we hear from the episode is Connie, asking Steven if he’s all right, and what happened?

So this episode was a big one. It heralded a huge change in the plot dynamic and structure of the show, and it was so, so good. I can only see good things for the show and its plot from here on out, that god damned Uncle Grandpa crossover episode notwithstanding.

Also, we finally got to see Estelle sing on the show, so that alone makes it perfection. I’m so, so glad we have this episode now; it’s a great sign of greater things to come!


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About the author

Ari

Ari is a twenty-one year old college student with a passion for animation, both western and eastern, as well as video games, comic books, toys, and literature of both the fine and pulp varieties.

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