Steven Universe Review: "Cat Fingers" (Season 1A, Episode 6)

If you think this screenshot is creepy… AVOID THIS EPISODE AT ALL COSTS. In fact, avoid this review. Or keep reading, whatever.

Airdate: November 25th, 2013

Synopsis: Amethyst manages to impress Steven with her shifting into a cat. Shocked by this, Steven wants to know how he can shape shift, despite Pearl’s objections. Amethyst teaches him to trust his id, and Steven… manages to create a cat out of one of his fingers. Unfortunately, Steven’s own id takes over, and he’s unable to get rid of the cats once tired of them.

Review (SPOILERS): Glad to know what my nightmares will be about for the next month or so.

Ah, yes – “Cat Fingers”. This was the creepiest episode of Steven Universe amongst fans for quite a bit, and has only been surpassed by the likes of “On The Run”, “Keeping It Together”, “The Return”, “Jailbreak”, “The Message”, ah, hell, the fact that this was scary at one time shows just how slow this show was to really start burning the oil.

Still, this episode is incredibly creepy – surprisingly so, even. Let’s put the obvious aspect of the creepiness this way – cats aren’t supposed to be scary. They’re supposed to be cute, huggable, and relieve any situation of any stress present. This episode… doesn’t use any of those aspects of the “kitten” cliche. Not by a long shot.

But first, the implications when it comes to the character affected by the cat mutations.

Ah, Steven. The very first episode of the show revolved around his self-doubt as a Gem – he couldn’t harness his power of his gem – that which activates a shield. “Cheeseburger Backpack” took a look at his inexperience dealing with the situations that the Gems entered. And “Frybo” analyzed just how being a Gem can affect the interactions with humans – in that case, Peedee Fryman. “Cat Fingers” looks at another aspect of Gem biology that Steven hasn’t exactly mastered yet – the ability to morph into somebody or something else.

In this, the show continues it’s world-building through the use of Steven, further cementing the character as something of the audience surrogate, and a very well-executed one at that – his desire to be like the ones he idolizes (the Crystal Gems) is a very realistic scenario that most of us have faced at some point in our lives, whether in childhood or adulthood.

Being Steven, though, harnessing his power at first backfires. Horribly. His body gets ransacked by cats he grew himself. It is far more horrifying than it sounds. The only way it can be topped is if somebody’s facial orifices were turned inside out. And even then, at least we would only see that for a few seconds. What happens to Steven here escalates through the entire episode, getting progressively more disturbing up to the point where he’s practically consumed by cats. They’re like tumors. And honestly, in terms of effectiveness, it’s pretty flipping effective.

Going beyond Steven himself, it’s pretty heart-wrenching to see Greg watch his own son get devoured by cats. Just because the two don’t live together doesn’t mean that they aren’t close – we saw their interactions before in “Laser Light Cannon.” Consider that Greg is generally unaware about the alien aspects that Steven has. This is his first exposure to Steven’s powers (the canon notwithstanding), and it almost kills his son. This entire cat incident must’ve traumatized the poor man. Still, saving his son by something that seems rather mundane actually works. I could go into a cliche “maybe he didn’t need superpowers” spiel, but you’ve probably heard something along those lines before, so I’ll just say, thank god Greg had the car wash. He might not ever get rich, but hey, better than digging a ditch.

Also of interest is Amethyst’s and Steven’s dynamics with each other and with Pearl. Far as I see, in this episode, they do seem to fit the Comic Trio archetype – Amethyst comes up with knee-jerk ideas, Steven acts on them without any awareness of the consequences, and Pearl is left to watch as everything goes to hell. Granted, this episode isn’t exactly funny (unless you really have a macabre sense of humor), but the point still stands. Future episodes should and will twist the dynamic around, anyway.

I also liked Mayor Dewey for the brief amount of time he appeared. In one minute, we see his ego, his sleaze, and a certain amount of pathetic-ness that he possesses. And it is all. So. Hilarious. I like how he promised “political favors” for Greg for washing his car. This man and Mayor Quimby have become among my favorite fictional political characters.

This episode, overall, is actually very sobering. While the previous five episodes did analyze Steven’s relative disconnects with humanity and Gem…dom? Gem-ness? Ah, whatever. Those episodes at least had a bit of comedy when it came to those explorations. This… not so much.

Tidbits:

  • Nice to see that Peedee’s father gave him a… promotion? I don’t work in the Fast Food industry, so can anybody tell me if working a deep fryer is better than being a creepy mascot?
  • This episode also has the first speaking appearance of Ronaldo. He’s a bit of a conspiracy blog nut, apparently. In fact, the writers set up a Tumblr at keepbeachcityweird.tumblr.com, where “he” writes about the events of the episode. It hasn’t been updated recently, though – last update was for “Cry for Help”, describing one of the characters as part of an “eco-terrorist group” hellbent on “freeing the animals”. Yeah…
  • Stupid question, and the big problem I have about the episode – how come the Car Wash was able to dissolve the cats, yet the ocean didn’t do that? Plotholes, writers! Plotholes! This isn’t really a nitpick, actually. Didn’t anybody think this through?
  • And yes, that is Joel Hodgson voicing Mayor Dewey. For those unaware, he played Joel Robinson in the cult sci-fi comedy Mystery Science Theater 3000, or MST3K. I had a song prepared about it, but it seemed a bit spoiler-y, so I’ll save it for a later episode.
Favorite Scene: Steven at the Fry Shack. How hilariously creepy. Also, Ronaldo. Certainly an… interesting character.
Best Character: Mayor Dewey. Not bashing the other characters, but Joel Hodgson makes his character so hilariously pathetic.
Memorable Quote: “I’m not paying for Father/Son bonding.” – Mayor Dewey. Great establishing line for a character.
Score: 7.5. (Bronze) Would’ve been a point higher if it wasn’t for that plothole involving the water.
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