I need to talk about how much I love Pearl and her song right now.
The singing and the visuals are delightful, but I’m especially taken by the lyrics and what they tell us, both about Pearl and about her relationship with Rose.
We have fanfiction for delving into whether or not Pearl enjoyed the “silly game” of fighting with men over Rose’s affection, whether she found it thrilling, or hurtful, or – from a position of knowing she’d always win in the end – titillating.
The “It’s over, isn’t it?” verse is so poignant for Pearl and Rose. It was beautifully sung, and captured the feeling of outwardly accepting that a relationship has ended while still inwardly longing to be proven wrong. In a situation like theirs, that’s particularly complicated and fascinating because Rose is gone… but she’s not. And Greg will, at some point, despite having been chosen by Rose, be gone too, but Pearl will live on. Rose would theoretically live on with her to forget about Greg in time, but she won’t because she’s part of Steven now. But how permanent is that, really?
It’s no wonder Pearl can’t move on.
The lyric, “Now I’ve got to be there for her son,” could have been sung with resentment or resignation, but it wasn’t. It’s undeniable in any canon context that Pearl loves – adores – Steven for himself, even apart from his connection to Rose. A perfect example is her song Strong in the Real Way back in the 20th episode, but throughout the series Pearl has shown that she loves being there for Steven. She wants him to look up to her; she cares about him and his opinion a heartwarming amount. It seems impossible that she’ll ever get Rose back while still having Steven, but I can’t imagine her ever wanting him gone now. So, right, what she had with Rose, it’s over, isn’t it?
Pearl sings about “war and glory, reinvention, fusion, freedom,” and Rose’s attention. These are the things she fought for; they were how she defined her purpose. I think those words were chosen carefully, not just to fit the bars, and I’m particularly interested in the choice of “reinvention.” There are many ways that could be applied – are Pearl’s behaviours and personal goals essentially a reinvention of what a Pearl is? Does it refer to what she did in the Crystal Gems being the reinvention of relationship norms between castes? Does it refer to what the Crystal Gems were trying to do with the planet Earth? It could quite conceivably be all of those, or something completely different, and I’m desperate for them to reveal more. Since her next line is “Out in daylight my potential: bold, precise, experimental,” I think I’m justified in my suspicions. Something about Pearl will be shown to relate to experimental reinvention.
Returning to the point at hand about Pearl and Rose, if the previous two lines were about how Pearl saw herself with Rose, the next one is how she perceives herself without her. Without Rose, Pearl sees herself as petty and dull. She describes herself as having the “nerve to doubt her.” I’m so fascinated by the hints they drop as to what Rose and Pearl’s relationship was like, and Pearl’s lyrics imply that even questioning Rose’s actions would be seen, maybe only by Pearl – but maybe not – as a form of impertinence. One of the reasons I love Steven Universe so much is that this show depicts characters and relationships as multifaceted and complex. Whatever the more intricate details of Pearl and Rose’s relationship, everything we’ve been shown so far clearly indicates that it was (and is) both of those things, and so important to the creation and development of their characters. While I love exploring the many possibilities of what their relationship was like in fandom, every hint they give us in canon makes me so eager to learn even more.
And you can see at the end of this clip that even though she’s aware of her pettiness and resentment toward Greg, she doesn’t want to hurt him. The Crystal Gems are our heroes, and they’re all essentially good people, but it’s the little things like that which have an impact and have made them really grow on me.
Steven is really very lucky that his plan worked as well as it did, but since it did work out, I’ve got to applaud him for his emotional intelligence in this episode. I’m really glad that he gave Pearl and Greg the opportunity to talk their issues out, and I think that Pearl having had the catharsis of actually giving voice to those issues will turn out to be great for her. This is a children’s cartoon, so it’s not totally unexpected for the power of friendship to save the day, but I still enjoyed watching it do so. I doubt Pearl and Greg’s conflicts are fully sorted out by any means, but I do think this episode marks the start of a solid understanding between them, and hopefully a strong friendship. Despite their similarities in how they loved Rose, I doubt they’ll ever be the sort of friends who seek each other’s company just to hang out, but I do believe they’ll bond through understanding, trust, and respect in ways that will make both of them happier. It appears to be what Rose would have wanted, and it’s honestly impressive that Steven’s skill for bringing people together is strong enough to make that happen.