Sometimes, emotions get too big for prose, and they simply must be sung. In Steven Universe, this is common, but it wasn’t until “Mr. Greg” that the audience was treated to a full musical episode, because the emotions that existed between Pearl and Greg about Rose Quartz were just too big for a single song.
There’s a lot that could be said about “Mr. Greg” – about the catchy music, the bombastic animation, the great one-liners and the hilarious visual humor. All of that was excellent. But the true steak and brie of this episode is Greg, Pearl, Steven, and the relationship between all three of them.
The dynamic between Pearl and Greg is a fascinating one. The show’s second episode made it clear that none of the Crystal Gems (sans Steven, of course) particularly cared for Mr. Universe, but Pearl’s reaction was by far the most hostile. In the show’s piecemeal way, we’ve slowly learned why – while grief caused both Garnet and Amethyst to build emotional walls, Greg and Pearl saw each other as direct competitors for Rose’s love. Their initial envy grew even more complicated after Rose Quartz had a half-human child with Greg and essentially died in the process.
Still, we have seen that their relationship has developed from the petty squabbling of “We Need To Talk”. The two have been seen fixing the van together, chatting amicably. It cannot be denied, however, that Greg was the more comfortable of the pair. He’s spoken openly about how much he admires all of the Gems – Pearl included – and had attempted to reach out.
Fusion is of course a central theme of this show, working as a metaphor for relationships, but the dance leading up to a fusion is just as important as the end result. Greg asks Pearl to dance with him, and she says “No!” In doing so, she was essentially denying the chance to develop a better relationship between the two of them.
This isn’t the first time a character in Steven Universe has (initially) refused to dance – Stevonnie did so to Kevin, then Lapis to Jasper. But the difference is that in those two scenarios, there was no obligation. Kevin was a rude stranger; Jasper was a violent jailer. Unlike those situations, there is an existing relationship between Pearl and Greg; one that is fraught but not altogether negative, and ignoring it was doing neither of them a favor.
“You have a lot in common.” They really, really do. Greg and Pearl both came from the relative bottom of the social ladder of their respective societies – Greg as a broke artist who literally lives in his van, Pearl as, well, a pearl. Both of them suffer from low self-esteem. And Rose Quartz fell in love with both of them, because of their ‘flaws’, not despite them. Now, they’re united through their love of both Rose Quartz and Steven. Them sharing a dance together is the first acknowledgement of these similarities and the first time they grow – together – because of them.
Despite these similarities, in many ways Pearl and Greg, and their relationship with Rose, are not alike. This is tortuously highlighted in the bridge of Pearl’s aching solo in “Mr. Greg” (also, every single one of these lines would make an EXCELLENT Pearl x Rose fanfiction title):
War and glory
Fusion, freedom, her attention
Out in daylight, my potential
Who am I now in this world without her?
Petty and dull with the nerve to doubt her
What does it matter, it’s already done
Now I’ve got to be there for her son – !
“Reinvention / my potential / experimental” ? Oh dear. If Pearls aren’t built for fighting, and Rose has been known to experiment (re: Steven), then it is looking more and more like Rose specifically honed Pearl to be a weapon. We can’t know how much of that was Pearl’s own idea. But we know Rose could never forgive herself for her past sins, and we know that Rose finds something like first-time Fusion Garnet “interesting.” Pearl, you might be wrong about Rose’s choice to have Steven. But you aren’t “petty and dull” to sometimes doubt Rose Quartz. She is not as rosy as she’s painted. As the grief ebbs, time will tell if Pearl is able to realize that.
Pearl does not blame Greg for staying, even knowing how Pearl felt about Rose. Pearl blamed Greg because Rose fell in love with him. The Crewniverse rides the line delicately as always, not quite saying it out loud, but the implication here is that “Rose never fell in love with me [Pearl].” Oh, sweet Pearl. She did, she loved you – did you ever ask? We know Rose was oblivious to the emotions of those around her. But the plan you doubted, the one of Rose’s plans you shouldn’t have, is Steven. And Steven says it, plain as day: “you both love me / and I love both of you.” Considering that Steven is Rose Quartz…well. There’s a reason Greg, Pearl, Steven, and the collective Steven Universe audience was crying. If you need more incentive, think about how we have speculated on who Pearl’s first chance at leading a dance would be with, that being the sign that she really can move on from Rose. Who would have guessed it would be Greg?
It’s over, isn’t it, this chapter in the Crystal Gems’ history, the wives of Rose Quartz at odds with each other – and all it took was her rebirth in a small human boy who goes out of his way to fix the emotional toil of his caretakers…because he is just that special.
Author: KK Bracken & Laura B
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