Steven Universe 4×07 Review: Onion Gang
The thing is that they’re meant to be. The show as a whole is a story about empathy and understanding, and Steven embodies both of these things. He loves easily and over abundantly, reaching out to friends and strangers alike. The one person he truly, truly struggles to relate to, however, is Onion. Even with pre-redemption Peridot, who had shown nothing but contempt for Earth and had actively attempted to kill him, Steven tried to reach out. But Onion? This strange little boy, who doesn’t talk, doesn’t eat, and commits crimes for what seems to be the sheer thrill of it… he is a true challenge to Steven’s empathy.
Which is why this story is so important. Onion and his gang are from Steven’s perspective more alien than the actual aliens. They communicate non-verbally, have a dark sense of humor, play with bugs, then partake in the ritualistic killing of those bugs– in other words, they rub Steven the wrong way. Yet he’s still able to forge a friendship with them. He’s found a way to bond with Onion through playfully narrating his life. He’s able to spend a fun day hanging out with the “Onion Gang”. The gang, in turn, is willing to bend a little to Steven’s personality, and accept his boundaries.
And boy, is it good to see Steven getting closer to Onion, and other kids his own age. He has Connie, yes, but otherwise, he spends the majority of his time with his family. Sure, he has teenage friends like Sadie and the Cool Kids, and Gem friends, like Peridot and Lapis, but those are all 3 to 5000 years older than him. There’s a gap in experience and perspective. Steven needs more people he can interact with on the same level. (And hopefully before he develops something else to feel insecure about). Maybe he can start hanging out with Jeff, too?
For the most part, this was definitely a character building episode– but as is so often the case with Steven Universe, there seems to have been some lore lurking in the background. It’s long been speculated that Onion might not be exactly human, and this episode lends a lot of credence to this theory. The members of the Onion gang have more than a passing resemblance to the Watermelon Stevens. All named after plants? Check. Small stature? Check. Incomprehensible language? Check. An independent culture? Check. Garbonzo, Pinto, Squash, and Soup all even seem to migrate with the seasons, suggesting it might be possible for them to rot.
This just raises even more questions. These plant people are clearly of a different strain than the Watermelons– they demonstrate a great deal more variety, both in terms of plant and human traits. Steven got to watch a videotape of Onion being born (thanks), so we know he was created in the… conventional way. Altogether, this suggests breeding between plant people and humans, which would be weirder if our main character wasn’t literally half rock. But how did such a situation develop? Why do none of these children seem to have parents, while Onion does? Did Rose create these beings, and why? Are they going to play some sort of part in the conflict against Homeworld?
While it may not have been a show-stopper or laugh-out-loud romp, Onion Friend was silly, strange, and sweet, just as it should have been. A calming note to end on, as we drift at last into the quiet autumn of hiatus.
Author: Laura B
Lover of fantasy and science fiction, fascinated in how they impact the real world. Professional writer and science communicator.
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