“I shouldn’t have come along, should I?”
“No. This is exactly why I brought you along.”
And with that moment, Pearl might understand that Steven actually did bring his mother along to Empire City.
But how well does “Mr. Greg” really serve this central moment? Unfortunately, the episode might not hold up as well as the tears in my eyes indicate.
Maybe the biggest problem is that the episode is two things at once: the Steven Universe musical episode and part three in the brilliant saga of episodes on Pearl’s hangups about Rose (the first two, “Rose’s Scabbard” and “Sworn To The Sword,” each having pretty solid claims to being the show’s best episode).
So on one hand, you have this.
There isn’t actually anything wrong with this. In fact, it’s delightful, and there’s so much delight in the setup and trip to Empire City (although Marty’s stupid face eating a hamburger is definitely the peak).
But I feel that the exposition before the climax doesn’t actually focus on Greg Universe and why he has anything in common or any differences with his former romantic adversary. The show actually seems to know this, tagging the Empire City song with “…and let’s bring Pearl.” So when Pearl breaks from the musical number, the show had set me up well enough to know that was coming, but it always felt like the boiling point could have been better shown. In fact, Steven Universe seems content to just have Greg tell us.
But then, of course, there’s the showstopper.
“War and glory, reinvention/Fusion, freedom, her attention/Out in daylight, my potential/Bold, precise, experimental.” I’m still struck by these quick lines that rush from Pearl’s mouth as she thinks about her life with Rose, and I’m a little dumbfounded at how deep into feelings of romance and infatuation a children’s show has dove, even in abstractions. And the way she talks about Rose’s episodes with men sound straight out of the Tegan & Sara playbook.
I could gush here as hard as my tear ducts did then, but I’m still a little sore that this climax wasn’t given the strongest of foundations. And I’m starting to actually tire of the central lesson of Steven Universe being trotted out so constantly, particularly when it used to be so much less explicit.
So yeah, I was actually a little bothered when Steven’s song literally began with “why don’t you talk to each other?,” an idea best approached with subtlety, like in “Sworn to the Sword” when Steven is shown reading the above book. But the song itself was actually pretty lovely, with the pair sharing some tender shared thoughts on the deceased, her spirit living on in the boy singing them into friendship. I just hope the Summer of Steven can cool it a little, lest it repeat itself more than the above forever-looping gif.
As the episode sums up, Steven sleepily recalls “it’s over, isn’t it?” We can’t hear what Greg and Pearl are laughing about in the front seat, though I’m sure we’re all dying to hear what they’re saying privately about Rose, but I have the feeling that it can’t be, particularly with Pearl so far from any sort of self-actualization.
“Mr. Greg” features definitive Steven Universe moments, and certainly one of the best in the show, but some careless crafting around it keeps it from being one of the show’s best overall moments.