Sometimes things are just sad and bad and that’s all.
“Cry for Help” does a few things better than Steven Universe has ever managed. The show’s one limitation seems to be that it refuses to tell stories that end on a sour note (unlike its peer Adventure Time, as I’ve mentioned).
And it’s never been sourer than the end of “Cry for Help.”
The last slew of Steven Universe episodes centered on fusion, but this time we center around how the Gems feel when they’re not fusing. Both Pearl and Amethyst so badly want to fuse with Garnet, with Amethyst being devastated upon being told that Sugilite is benched and Pearl manipulating everyone around her to experience more Sardonyx. Both Pearl and Amethyst want to experience Garnet’s confidence, to feel strong like her.
But Garnet, who takes fusion far more seriously than anyone else, feels revolted she was lied to by Pearl for the sake of fusion. Her disgust is tinged with romantic and sexual feelings, just as Amethyst’s loneliness is.
When I learned that Sardonyx would just be the final permutation of the three Gems, I was worried the episode would feel like a bit of a stunt. And it started off that way, but the cues Amethyst and Pearl give off early quietly bring great dimension to their yearning for fusing with Garnet.
And it ends with everyone sad and angry with each other. “Man, it sure would be nice if things worked out the way they do in cartoons,” Amethyst laments while watching Crying Breakfast Friends!, Steven Universe’s show-within-a-show that’s a beautiful showcase for its occasional use of absurdist humor and one of its best running jokes.
In Steven Universe, they normally would.
Rewind to Garnet and Steven watching the same show.
“Aw, Pear. I’d forgive her, wouldn’t you?” Steven asks. Garnet’s not impressed. Garnet would not forgive Pear.
But rewind again to something Amethyst said earlier in the episode while watching the show.
“I don’t get this cartoon, man. Why don’t they just eat the ice cream off the floor? They don’t have to cry about it.”
But sometimes they will. And television is better this way.
If there’s one drawback to this episode, it’s that it feels like in the Week of Sardonyx, forgiveness and resolution are promised.
But at least for now, sometimes things are just bad.