Season 4 gets off to a bit of an unwieldy start as the show attempts a Looney Tunes pastiche.
So the Crystal Gems (plus Peri) went back to the Beta Kindergarten to catch and bubble all the Gem monsters Jasper had been keeping caged up there, and when Pearl laments how cruel that was, the question naturally arises about how it’s any different from what they do to those Gems. The answer appears to be that bubbling ensures that they’re unconscious and decently well-protected, which sure, but I think the main thing is that they want to know where they are if/when they actually find a way to help them. I suppose that’s the main difference, really: Jasper wanted to exploit them, while the Crystal Gems want to help them.
But Peri’s not quite on the same page yet.
Peridot: I can’t believe these dumb things used to be Gems!
She also mentions that they don’t have corrupted Gems on Homeworld…although judging from what Jasper said, it seems pretty likely that they exist, just not within proper society.
Then the last monster manages to escape.
Pearl: This is harder than it looks, you know!
Peridot: How could you all be outsmarted by that thing?
They’re so annoyed by Peridot’s smugness, they agree to let her try to catch the thing by herself…but Steven won’t allow that.
Amethyst: Are you seriously going to help her?
Steven: It’s just, she’s all alone out here, with no idea what she’s doing.
Pearl: Oh, Peridot will be fine.
Steven: I meant the monster.
Steven, you are precious, but I think the first step to helping the monster will be to change Peridot’s perspective on it, since she’s apparently convinced that the monsters are no longer people.
Steven: It usually takes all of us to capture a corrupted Gem.
Peridot: That’s because you try to out-brute it. We’re going to outsmart it!
Thus we come to the Wile E. Coyote portion of the episode.
Peridot: We’ll wait until it gets right up under us, not suspecting a thing, because it’s so dumb, and then we’ll drop this rock on its stupid head! It’s even more flawless! And at this height, nothing can fall on us!
Steven: What if it doesn’t stop where we want it to?
Peridot: I’m doing the best I can, Steven!
Steven: You don’t poof easily, huh?
Peridot: Us peridots are tougher than we look.
So I don’t really mind seeing Peridot getting beat up by gravity/karma/whathaveyou, but then Steven inevitably gets hurt too and I cannot bear seeing my baby get hurt by her stupidity.
That’s kind of why this Looney Tunes homage doesn’t work nearly as well as Looney Tunes: Looney Tunes are more archetypes than actual characters, and the Road Runner cartoons don’t even have much dialogue. The slapstick works because you don’t take the damage seriously, and what’s more, you don’t take the characters seriously.
Peridot: I don’t get it. I’m smarter than your average peridot! How did I fail today against some barely functional stupid cloddy dumb dumb?
Steven: Hey, hey, corruptions aren’t dumb! They just think a little different, that’s all.
The first step to outwitting someone is to accurately assess their level of intelligence! The inability to speak doesn’t mean their thoughts are any less complex, just that they have a lot more trouble expressing them (which probably adds to their many frustrations). So Steven does a little role-playing by bombarding Peridot with marshmallows.
Steven: Pretend I’m a freaked-out human screaming at you in fear. Pretend I’m an Earth-animal chasing you away from your first safe hiding spot! Pretend I’m an angry green Gem trying to poof you! This is life for you now: Endless suffering!
Steven: There, you see? What you’re doing makes total sense! You remember what it was like to have everything important taken away, being attacked, feeling trapped? You were frustrated. So is she! Why don’t you try thinking about this from her point of view?
Honestly, if Steven hadn’t been around to stick his neck out for her, Peridot might very well have succumbed to corruption herself upon her exile to Earth. So she tries a little empathy.
It honestly doesn’t turn out that great, but at least she’s done with the wacky plans. Now she just jumps the monster and tries to out-brute it!
And succeeds! Because she’s tougher than she looks.
And it turns out that the others were watching all along.
Amethyst: We knew it’d be funny.
Peridot: I told you I could do it. But I have to admit, it was more difficult than expected. This corrupted Gem was truly an adversary worthy of my skill.
Until next time…