ORIGINAL AIR DATE: Nov. 4, 2013
SONG: Yes, the Cookie Cat Theme song
SYNOPSIS: Steven creates a shield from his gem powers, but he has no idea how to willingly activate it. Can ice cream be the answer?
Steven Universe starts off innocuous. Before the tears, before the emotional woes and nuanced character development started taking place, the show was content with its slice-of-life formula of a young preteen with magical powers and the alien Gem ladies he lives with. “Gem Glow” is not what I would pick if I wanted to introduce Steven Universe to someone; there are better episodes that represent its theme. As an introductory point, it gets across the characters’ general personalities, but never explains the greater context. Gem culture and Steven’s relationship with it will be expanded, but for now, “Gem Glow” starts off with a straight, but familiar premise: Young Protagonist has unique powers and it is awesome.
“Gem Glow” begins at the Big Donut, a doughnut store Steven loves to frequent. Unfortunately his favorite brand of ice cream, Cookie Cat, has been discontinued in favor of those icky, distorted Lion Lickers. No amount of cheering from employee Sadie (or jeering from fellow co-worker Lars) is enough to restore Steven’s disappointment. At the least, Sadie allows the boy to take the Cookie Cat freezer as a keepsake.
Steve lives below a magnificent, multi-armed statue of a rock-based alien species known as a Gem (though their off-planet background is not apparent at the start of the show.) The giant statue houses a temple where three Gems reside. At the entrance of the temple is a standard human house. That would be Steven’s place. Words don’t do this location justice, just look at this beautiful background.
Steven Universe is peppered with gorgeous pastel colors and soothing environments, signifying the show’s tone and theme of compassion and love.
Steven arrives to find giant centipedes called centipeedles aggressively attacking his guardians, the Crystal Gems: three Gems who guide and watch over Steven as he learns to use his Gem power, being half of one himself. Garnet, the leader; Pearl, the smart one; and Amethyst, the fun one easily take down the horde. Amethyst herself also spouts an interesting line that doesn’t seem to make sense the first time you watch it, declaring none of these centipeedles “have gems.” Hmm. Garnet concludes that there must be a Centipeedle mother somewhere. Eager to be part of the team, Steven begs the three to join their quest, but Pearl gently tells him he needs to stay put until he’s mastered his abilities.
Steven gets one good news in all this: Cookie Cat ice creams in his freezer, bunches of them! When the Gems heard that they were discontinuing, they bought out as much of them as possible for Steven. The boy is ecstatic, going as far as singing the official theme song. He takes a bite and the delight it brings to his mouth is enough to make the Gem on his belly button glow! The Gems tell him to try and summon his weapon, but the glow fades before he has a chance. Steven asks the Gems how they materialize their weapons, prompting the three to each show off their own tricks of the trade.
This is a good method to introduce Garnet, Pearl, and Amethyst. The first segment involves Pearl and Steven under a tree. Pearl gets technical over the leaves falling and declare hard work and practice is the key to a successful weapon-summoning. By contrast, Amethyst casually tells Steven that she can just pull out her whip whenever she wants without effort…all told in a back alley of the Big Donut. Garnet is a little balanced, relying on both pure instinct and practicality. At the least, she channels herself to the greater universe to activate her powers. Steven is a little intimidated.
Steven instead tries to recreate what he did last time, eating a Cookie Cat ice cream. Miraculously, this works and Steven creates a shield! He gets a little too excited, forcing it to ricochet off the walls. His victory is shortlived, though as the centipeedles attack and this time, mommy’s come a-crawling. The Crystal Gems try to defeat her, but the creature is too strong. Steven takes his Cookie Cat freezer and tries to whip out his shield as he downs one Cookie Cat ice cream after another. It doesn’t work and Steven is distraught…until the mother centipeedle trashes the Cookie Cat freezer. Angry, Steven hurls the machine at her, its electric shock distracting the being long enough for the Crystal Gems to defeat it, transforming it back into a weaker form (it kind of looks like a green Pokeball.)
With every Cookie Cat ice cream eaten, Steven mourns for their loss, but at least now the Crystal Gems know confectionery treats are not what is activating Steven’s powers. Garnet assures him that someday he will figure out how to control his powers in his own, “Steveny way.”