Steven Universe Review: "Giant Woman" (Season 1A, Episode 12)

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Airdate: February 24th, 2014

Synopsis: A fight between Pearl and Amethyst leads to Steven finding out about Opal. Who is Opal? Well, Amethyst describes it as “the two of us – mashed together!” Basically, Opal is a fusion between Amethyst and Pearl, combining their personalities and attributes to form a cohesive whole. Trouble is, the two are like a Prius and a Hummer.

Good timing – Garnet chucks the three up to the Sky Spire to get the Heaven Beetle, and requests that Steven act as a mediator. He does this by requesting Opal – even singing about it. Eventually, they come across said beetle… guarded by a bird. One who eats Steven and his pet goat.

Review: One of the great things about science fiction shows is the more liberal story engine that they tend to share. Most importantly, this affects character interactions. Sure, talking can be done anywhere, but some of the vehicles found in science fiction allow for characters to truly understand their own or each other’s position – whether it be mindswaps, alternate realities, or, in this case, fusions.

For Steven Universe, it’s fusion. This being the first episode to explore the concept, we “merely” get a look at the powers within.

Well, that would be the case for most other TV shows.

Rather, this episode presents a sizeable chunk of character analysis and interactions in 11 minutes, and the end result is one of the early greats in the Steven Universe canon.

“Giant Woman” showcases the character interaction between Lister and Rimmer – I mean, Amethyster and Pearlmer – I mean, Amethyst and Pearl. Yes, I could take some of the arguments between Lister and Rimmer and overdub them over Amethyst and Pearl. Here, this episode gives their character interactions a backstory, all through one simple line…

You’re no fun anymore! This is why we never form Opal!

Three things – first, Pearl was once more fun. Second, she and Amethyst can form something. Third, and the crux of this plot, they haven’t created that something – not for a while, anyway.

The argument seems to stem from their polar opposite personalities – which, again, resemble those found in the first two series of Red Dwarf. Amethyst is a rather impulsive loudmouth who sleeps near piles of trash. Even Lister, who once bred mold (“His name was Albert!”), would find plenty of her habits disgusting. Pearl, by contrast, is a seemingly (emphasis on the word seemingly) restrained strategist who follows organizational skills second only to Arnold Rimmer, and is an utter grammar nut. (Steven’s response: “Is her talking about me?”)

Even so, Pearl is known for having somewhat petty tendencies, what with cheating at checkers, smirking when debris fell on Amethyst while climbing a cliff, etc. Amethyst, meanwhile, does possess some element of levelheadedness, at least when Pearl herself is starting to flip out over anything that could even be the tiniest bit out of order.

So the question is, are the two of them really that different? In fact, could their differences stem from an earlier action that seemed to make Pearl more stoic, and Amethyst more… eccentric?

Either way, they mix like oil and water. How would anybody remotely expect them to fuse? They would have to be a chi-oh, wait.

Ah, Steven. Who is Stev – OK, I guess we know who Steven is. If you don’t, one of the 11 prior reviews I posted will fill you in on the kid. Still, Steven’s innocence is on full display. He doesn’t see any deep-seated differences that lay in between the two of them – hell, he just sees two people arguing, thus preventing him from seeing Opal. It’s not cruel of him – he has the focus of a 12-year old. Even his moments of altruism come from a simple mind.

Besides, his view of Opal is to, well, bring his two mothers/guardians/roommates together. He even poses the question after Amethyst and Pearl save the kid from a disaster the former caused… “That was so great how you worked together! Why don’t you do that all the time?”

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They have no logical answer – their dissent from one another is powered by their own stubbornness.

Of course, Steven enters distress again when he turns into bird food – lucky for him, he finds the Heaven Beetle. And this time, the two of the finally fuse. This is obviously to save the kid, but might also be out of remorse – the argument between the two of them led to Steven becoming bird food, and may have screwed up the mission.

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Oh, I forgot to mention that the scene that features Opal is probably the first truly sublime scene in Steven Universe history. Aimee Mann does a sublime job, even for a character that gets three lines… and all three of them have some level of levity to the story. The animation when she fires the arrow at the cluster of birds is beautiful. The staging is fantastic (I guess), the score is magical… and Steven’s reaction fits in perfectly. He can simply stare in shock, and only ask one question. “Do you… know who I am?”

“He he he he… all you wanna do… is see me turn into…” “(Gasps) A Giant Woman!”

Love, love, love that scene. Callison and Mann nail the voice acting – no melodrama, no screeching. Just a simple, soft exchange, with so much power.

Even further, Opal herself is a great combination between Pearl and Amethyst. In combat, stoic and logical, yet also rather merciless and willing to do quick stunts (like side down several stairs). Out of combat, laconic, yet also quite relaxed… and possibly forgetful.

I also forgot to mention that status quo is not god in this show, and this episode reinforces this method of storytelling and TV writing. Yes, Opal comes undone over an internal argument over where the heaven beetle is placed, but Garnet complements Steven in a very peculiar way.

“Nice work. You’ll be great at fusing one day.”

Spot the anomaly? I’m not pointing it out to you. All I’ll say is, quite a few more plots have been open.

“Giant Woman” is a fantastic episode – one that provides for beautiful character development, brilliant art, and a gorgeous score. There were great episodes before, but this is, hands down, the very first sublime Steven Universe episode.

Tidbits:

  • Let’s get this out of the way first – the “Giant Woman” song is a very cute, well-put-together song. It shows Steven’s naiveté (“If you give it a chance, you can do a huge dance because you are a giant woman”), yet also a brief sense of understanding (“You might even like being together, and if you don’t, it won’t be forever”).
  • One thing I found interesting is that Opal uses a magical bow and arrow to take down the birds. Apparently, when an opal mineral is fractured, it can be used to form a spear. Damn, Johnston and Liu are brilliant.
  • My question is – how the hell was Garnet able to survive diving into lava? I know that she’s a space rock, but still – her hair isn’t even remotely singed.
Favorite Scene: Opal punching through the bird to rescue Steven and Steven Jr., sliding down a banister, and firing an exploding arrow through a bow. The entire scene is incredible.

Best Character: Steven. Thought it would be Opal, eh? Well, Steven gets this because, while Opal is a fantastic character, this episode is about Steven as a mediator between Pearl and Amethyst.

Memorable Quote: Can’t I just say the entire “Giant Woman” song? Second place? “You’re no son of mine!” – Steven disowning his goat/son after said goat wants to eat the Heaven Beetle.

ScoreGold. Hands down, the first sublime Steven Universe episode.

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