Steven Universe Rewind: Too Short to Ride

Episode Description: Steven and Amethyst take a trip to Funland but run into trouble when their friend is too short to ride the rollercoasters.

Spoiler Policy: All spoilers up to and including the currently discussed episode will be unmarked. Spoilers for episodes beyond the current point will be enclosed in Future Vision blocks, which will include spoilers for the entire series.

They’re coy about putting Peridot in episode descriptions for a long time, presumably so not to spoil anyone new to the series. Actually, it looks like Season 5’s Back to the Kindergarten is the only episode description that mentions Peridot by name post-redemption.

At the beach house, Steven gives Peridot a wrapped present, prompting her to say, “Wow, thanks!” This is, of course, what Steven taught her to say when given a present, back in Log Day 7 15 2. He adorably sticks the bow on her hair as she unwraps it. The last time we saw Peridot at Steven’s house, she was only begrudgingly an ally, explaining the Cluster to the Crystal Gems – she’s come a long way.

Steven’s present is a tablet that Greg bought and decided he didn’t want, signifying that his wealth wasn’t entirely used up in the last episode. The tablet and the way it’s controlled reminds Peridot of her old screens, so she immediately loves it, even if she thinks the internet can’t compare to having data from multiple star systems.

Steven attempts to win her over by showing her a cat video on “TubeTube.” “Why was this documented?” asks Peridot, in one of the most applicable Steven Universe quotes of all time. He also offers to set her up with a Twitter parody where she can record her thoughts in “140 characters.” “That’s so many people!”

There was an actual Peridot Twitter account run by Jesse Zuke, who is responsible for storyboarding several of Peridot’s episodes, including this one:

It’s hard to catch, but one of the icons on the tablet is Tinder. Apparently Greg was considering trying out online dating.

Peridot’s only criticism of the gift is that it isn’t attached to her body, so she commandeers some of Steven’s old velcro tennis shoes to make a strap to hold the tablet on her arm. She dramatically poses with it, rhapsodizing about how good it feels to have technology. She may be adjusting to Earth, but this is clearly still something she misses.

Amethyst turns up, and Peridot immediately shows her the tablet. As in Too Far, it’s obvious that Peridot values Amethyst’s opinion and wants her to be impressed – even though Amethyst just calls her a “square.”

Amethyst is here because she and Steven wanted to hang out with Peridot, and let me register my ongoing disappointment that this kind of plot didn’t happen more often on the show, because they’re so much fun together. Peridot is eager to do a “friend thing,” even if she doesn’t totally understand the alien-to-her concept of “hanging out.” That makes sense, given that she barely understood the concept of leisure time.

The trio arrive at Funland. “You’ve brought me to a sign!” says Peridot – unsurprisingly, amusement parks also seem to be a foreign concept to Homeworld.

Amethyst wants to do the most fun thing first, so they run to the roller coaster. It seems that since the last time they’ve visited, Mr. Smiley has added a height restriction to the ride, and none of our trio make it. Peridot takes it especially badly when Mr. Smiley squashes down her hair to see her actual height.

“My height is indicative of my rarity and importance! I demand entry, YOU CLOD!” Of course, later in the episode we learn why she takes such offense to the height restriction. Not only is her height not indicative of her rarity importance, it’s quite the opposite: she is smaller than a Peridot is “supposed” to be due to a lack of resources, and compensates for it with her now-lost limb enhancers.

Mr. Smiley threatens them with “another lifetime ban.” This is a reference to Serious Steven, where Steven earns the lifetime ban (apparently since lifted) by accidentally destroying the spinning teacup ride.

Amethyst realizes they can just shapeshift to make the necessary height. Steven doesn’t go for a natural taller look like he did in Steven’s Birthday, instead just weirdly elongating his legs.

Peridot struggles for a minute before claiming she’s rusty at shapeshifting and the other two can go on ahead, clearly unhappy.

They try the House of Mirrors next. Unsurprisingly, this does nothing to assuage Peridot’s irritation about shapeshifting.

Peridot searching “am I having fun” on Google while in the middle of an awkward social situation is perhaps some of the hardest I’ve related to her.

While walking by the carnival games, Peridot spots a large stuffed alien on display as a prize, and immediately falls in love with it. “Its large head, swollen with thoughts! Those compassionate eyes! It understands. I need it. Now!”

Peridot’s frequently been associated with “alien gray” imagery, including a little drawing of an alien head on her now-broken tape recorder and the alien boxer shorts she donned in Log Date 7 15 2. It’s fitting, given her initial status as a mysterious invader of Earth.

Steven explains that the alien toy is a prize that they have to win, and rings the bell for the game. Mr. Smiley comes running over, explaining that “they’re a little ‘fun’derstaffed” and that he hasn’t seen a bed in six days.

The three throw rings at milk bottles, not getting a single one. Amethyst complains that it’s rigged and Peridot laments that “she didn’t save Earth for this.”

Amethyst, of course, is never happy to lose, and she’s absolutely determined to get that prize.

Amethyst tries to distract Mr. Smiley by telling him that Onion is setting the roller coaster on fire. It wouldn’t work except that, well, he actually is. Mr. Smiley runs off, complaining that he hasn’t even paid off the last lawsuit.

While Mr. Smiley is gone, Amethyst shapeshifts her arm to easily place a ring on the milk bottle.

Amethyst calls over Mr. Smiley and tells him that Peridot landed a ring. She’s confused until Amethyst whispers that they’re lying. “Oh, uh, yes, I did land the ring! I also do not steal Steven’s clothes when he’s not looking!”

[spoiler title=”Future Vision”]In The Future, Steven gives Peridot one of his shirts as a parting gift, presumably because she can’t steal his clothes when he isn’t there.[/spoiler]

Instead of presenting Peridot with the alien plush toy, Mr. Smiley puts a little rubber finger puppet on her finger, calling it a “little sister.” That’s the prize for one ring, and she’ll need ten rings to get the large prize. Peridot is underwhelmed.

Later, a disappointed Peridot is trying to use her tablet while still wearing the finger puppet, which isn’t working very well. She tries to close a pop-up add telling her to “find cute roommates!”: “I’m all set, thanks,” a reference to the fact that she and Lapis are still living together at the barn.

When Steven compliments her prize, Peridot complains that she didn’t even win it – it was Amethyst, with shapeshifting. From Peridot’s point of view, everything in Funland so far has required shapeshifting.

Amethyst, irritated, asks her what’s wrong with shapeshifting. “You mean besides being an insult to your intended form?”

“Okay, what’s really wrong with it?” asks Amethyst. This really shows how far Amethyst has come in terms of maturity. Instead of taking Peridot’s bait at face value, she has the emotional intelligence to understand that Peridot’s complaint is just a cover for her real issue.

Peridot reveals the real source of her annoyance: “I can’t do it. At all.” Given how insecure Peridot is about her abilities (see: Back to the Barn), admitting this is a fairly big deal for her, too.

Steven offers to teach her shapeshifting. After all, he had a long way to go to learn how to use his powers (including shapeshifting), too. Amethyst is on board with it, swallowing her corn dogs whole.

Peridot, normally enthusiastic about learning new things, seems more ambivalent, probably because of how directly this relates to her feelings of inferiority that she tries to cover. She’s likely also concerned that if she can’t actually master shapeshifting, then Steven and Amethyst won’t invite her to hang out with them any more.

Steven and Amethyst demonstrate shapeshifting to Peridot in a number of ways, like elongating their body parts and imitating cats. Steven makes one of his fingers into a cat finger from the episode of the same name, immediately freaking out and dousing it in water.

An increasingly frustrated Peridot takes a time out to “cheep” her earlier comments on shapeshifting. Her little biography of herself is interesting for a couple of reasons. “Certified kindergartner” is her title from her Homeworld days, and her use of it here, coupled with the next line that she’s stranded in Beach City, definitely suggests she’s not fully over her transition from Homeworlder to Earthling. The final line, Leader of the Crystal Gems, is what she was styling herself in Hit the Diamond, and is another way she’s been attempting to cope with her new life by inflating her own importance.

As a last ditch effort, Amethyst and Steven try to “manually” activate Peridot’s shapeshifting by grabbing her arms and legs and pulling. Peridot responds with a dull, “Ow. Ow. Ow,” until the pain finally gets to her and she tells them to let go. Still, it shows that she is fairly resilient to be able to withstand both Steven and Amethyst here, as they both have considerable strength.

And then, Peridot decides to drop a massive lore bomb inside this comedy episode, as she likes to do.

“My lack of skill is an objective fact. I’m an Era 2 Peridot. I am new. Resources are dwindling on Homeworld. They can’t make Gems like they used to. That’s why they give Era 2 Peridots technological advancements – because we don’t have powers.”

There’s a lot to unpack here, but let’s start with the first mention of Era 2. Peridot has mentioned that the kindergarten equipment dates from Era 1, but this is the first time Era 2 has been brought up properly by anyone on the series. The fact that she’s new could explain why Pearl and Garnet didn’t recognize what type of Gem she was initially: either Peridots didn’t exist until more recently, or they looked fairly different.

The fact that resources are needed to make new Gems with a full array of powers also explains why they were so initially dead set on conquering the Earth, which is clearly resource-rich. Furthermore, it retroactively explains one of the biggest reasons why Peridot defected to the Crystal Gems. Peridot thought she could convince Yellow Diamond that it was possible to use the Earth for its valuable resources, perhaps even renewably. In Peridot’s mind, the resource shortage is a major issue with Gem society, one which causes her to rely on technology instead of her own powers like other Gems. She surely expected Yellow, who is supposed to be perfectly logical, to understand this and hear out her proposals. Instead, Yellow was eager to destroy a massive cache of resources for a geoweapon that could be manufactured elsewhere. It’s no wonder that she felt personally betrayed by this.

Of course, it also explains why she was initially so sensitive about her limb enhancers. Without them, she’s effectively helpless except for her impressive durability, and even that is no match for Garnet’s gauntlets. Even now that the other Gems aren’t a threat to her, she still carries feelings of inferiority stemming from her lack of “natural” abilities.

[spoiler title=”Future Vision”]We don’t learn until later that the Rebellion was the event that caused the transition from Era 1 into Era 2, even though it is fairly obviously the case from the start. Specifically, it seems to be Pink Diamond’s “shattering” that was the turning point.

I always found it mildly disappointing that we never got any reactions about this Era 2 revelation from Garnet or Pearl. The only two that hear it, Steven and Amethyst, have no personal experience with Homeworld. Pearl’s reaction, especially knowing it was caused by her actions with Pink, would be interesting.

Peridot is the only fully confirmed Era 2 on the show (unless you count Steven), although there are a few minor characters that could be, so we never really get perspectives other than hers.

It’s not totally explicitly spelled out in the show, but it’s pretty clear that Gem creation is not the only thing in decline about Gem society, and part of the reason why Blue and Yellow ultimately come around is because of a mutual understanding that the current course is unsustainable.[/spoiler]

Amethyst further tries to show off her newfound emotional intelligence by getting “really real” with Peridot. “This whole time we’ve been here, you’ve been focusing on what you can’t do. Of course you’re not having any fun. You think that all you are is all you could be, but we don’t hang out with you for who you could be. We like you.”

It’s decent advice, but I think it falls a bit flat with someone who is still struggling so much with the mere concept that she can be something different from what she was told in the first place.

[spoiler title=”Future Vision”]It’s also advice that Amethyst dishes out, but doesn’t take for herself. Her upcoming arc involving Jasper is entirely about Amethyst seeing that she “should be” as powerful as Jasper, but isn’t.[/spoiler]

Peridot pointedly ignores Amethyst, hiding behind her screen and running out of characters in the very important “cheep” she’s typing.

Amethyst loses her patience and rips the tablet from Peridot’s hands, tossing it into the ocean. While it’s valid to think that Peridot shouldn’t be using her new tablet to hide from important conversations, this is not a good way of going about it.

“No! It’s all that I am!” Peridot yells as the tablet flies towards the water, which is a pretty raw look at her insecurities when she isn’t trying to play up her ego. Homeworld indoctrination isn’t undone in a day, and a Gem like Peridot is going to have difficulty separating her intrinsic value from her “purpose” and her abilities for a long time. Heck, Pearl has difficulty now, and it’s been thousands of years since she’s seen Homeworld.

It’s also pretty relatable for those of us who have too much of our self-worth bound up in our jobs, not that I would relate to that or anything.

The group realizes that the tablet is actually floating in midair above the ocean. Peridot was able to stop it from falling in with sheer force of will – as it turns out, she has powers over metal objects.

It’s a bit convenient, but it does fit into what Amethyst was saying about focusing on what you can do and not what you can’t. It’s also a cool development for my favorite character, so I’ll allow it.

[spoiler title=”Future Vision”]We never really learn any more about why Peridot has these powers. Is it just our Peridot? Is it something other Gems can learn? Some fans have speculated that Peridot’s limb enhancers always used latent metal powers for control, and that the presence of the enhancers suppresses Peridots from developing their powers further. It does make sense that Homeworld would not want their low level workers to develop dangerous abilities – a potential further wrinkle with the idea that Era 2 Gems lack powers because of a resource shortage. Pearl learning many abilities that a Pearl would not normally have also supports the theory that new powers can be learned or unlocked.

I also always thought that Peridot’s metal powers were a bit underused. She’s relegated to tossing cans at the Diamonds when they appear in Reunited, even though she’s previously been shown to be able to levitate a car.[/spoiler]

Peridot has one immediate use for her new powers…


[spoiler title=”Future Vision”]Later on she’ll rip the bowtie off the alien to wear herself and toss the alien into an aquarium, so she’s not really too sentimental about this toy.[/spoiler]

“Give it up for Pea Pod!” says Amethyst.

“No, give it up for the Shorty Squad,” says Peridot, closing out the episode.

I really love this episode. It has a lot of the funniest Peridot moments, especially centering around her new tablet, but it also has a heartwarming core with Peridot learning a new ability. I also just love the casual interaction between Steven, Amethyst, and Peridot as friends. They have really great chemistry together as a team, and I think the show should have gone to this well a few more times than they ultimately did. Unfortunately, this is the last really meaty Peridot episode we’ll get for quite some time.

Next time on Steven Universe Rewind! We go from one of my favorite episodes to, uh, The New Lars. At least we’ll have something to discuss, I suppose.