If every pork chop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs!
This episode articulates one of the main themes of the series in one goofy-sounding line, and also gives us our first glimpse at the heart of the show. Also the first real song. This episode is just adorable, okay?
Steven: Woah…it’s a giant eyeball! Awesome!
Pearl: Not awesome! It’s a Red Eye!
Steven: Red eye? It’s going to infect us all!
Garnet: That’s pinkeye, Steven.
So this week’s threat is an object that looks suspiciously like a spacecraft threatening to crash into their home of Beach City. The Crystal Gems don’t really have any ranged weapons, though – except maybe the titular laser cannon, which belonged to Steven’s mother, Rose Quartz.
Steven: If it belonged to Mom, I bet my dad knows where it is. He can help us save the day!
Pearl: Greg is…nice, Steven, but I doubt Rose would entrust someone like him with such a powerful weapon.
Amethyst: Your dad is kind of a mess, Steven. […] I’m just saying, even if she did leave it with him, he probably broke it, or lost it, or dropped it in the ocean by now.
I love how excited Steven is about everything, including getting his dad involved in “Gem stuff”.
Greg: Wait, is that a magical thing? The Gems told me not to get involved with magic stuff. Could be dangerous, or interfere with what’s left of my hair.
I also love how the first thing Greg does (once he realizes Steven is there) is give him a hug. He is clearly a good dad, which is a welcome reprieve after Fruits Basket (or Lord of the Rings, for that matter). And once Steven explains the situation, he suggests trying a certain “magical storage unit”.
Greg: You know, before I ran the car wash, when I was a one-man band, I toured the whole country!
Steven: I know, Dad.
Greg: When I came to play a concert here in Beach City, no one showed up except-
Steven: An alligator!
Greg: No, it was your mother! […] And we were always together after that, until she gave up her physical form to bring you into the world. Don’t know what a magic lady like her ever saw in a plain old dope like me.
This is our first glimpse of Rose, and far from the last. I love how they manage to capture the feel of a parent who tells a story to their kid over and over, thereby making this exposition considerably less awkward than it could have been. Greg was a failed musician (at least in the fiscal sense) who happened to fall in love with a Crystal Gem, but she eventually chose to give up her life to have a child with him (no, they never really explain how that worked, and I don’t care to think too hard about it, either). Another important detail revealed later in the episode is that Steven’s gem was inherited from Rose Quartz (which I always thought made sense given its location in place of a belly button, although it turns out that’s where it was for her, too).
This also provides the in-universe (heh) explanation for why Steven is so musically inclined.
I know I’m not that tall
I know I’m not that smart
But let me drive my van into your heart
Let me drive my van into your heart
This is generally the tenor of the songs in this show: short, simple, and surprisingly catchy. Also I can’t be the only one who sees a little Billy Ray Cyrus in Mr. Universe’s brief singing career.
Unfortunately, even when they’ve towed the cannon to the beach, no one actually knows how to activate it, but it seems to be up to Steven since he has Rose’s gem.
Steven: Everyone’s counting on you! You can’t just be useless! I know you can help!
Greg: It’s okay, Steven. We’ll figure out something else – something even better!
Steven: Right. If every pork chop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs.
It turns out those are the magic words to activate the cannon!
I imagine that sentiment might have been part of what Rose found attractive about Greg, because it represents the idea that you don’t need perfection to do good and have a good life. Sometimes flaws and bad things can lead you to something even better than you’d imagined – that’s one of the thematic elements that seems to spring from A Wrinkle in Time. The whole book revolves around how one kid manages to use her flaws – and her love – to defeat a “perfect” evil.
And I love how the very fact that the Crystal Gems needed a cannon not only gave Steven a chance to spend time with his dad, but seemingly let Greg reconnect with Rose on some level. And possibly gave the Gems a bit more respect for Steven’s dad. And it is precious.
Until next time…