Amethyst has been long overdue for a central character arc, and I’m happy to report that the series finally seems to be delivering one.
“Crack the Whip” presents two distinct halves in its short eleven minute time-span, the first half is mostly a comedic romp with Amethyst’s antics on full display while the second half abruptly transitions into action set-pieces that both serve to continue the ongoing Jasper arc and progress our heroes characters, whether it be through their success like Steven and Connie or their failure like Amethyst. While it’s great to see Stevonnie succeed in such a triumphant manner, the true meat of the episodes revolves around Amethyst, as the episodes structure is actually highlighted by her philosophy. Unlike the more rigid Pearl, Amethyst prefers to go with the flow, rather than spending time practicing the fundamentals constantly, when placed in combat she’d prefer to rely on her gut instincts than simple fighting protocol. Earlier in the episode, she cited that it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen in a real fight, so you can’t over-analyzing ever component and instead just go for it. Her advice makes sense and ultimately proves to be useful for Stevonnie, but that only further accentuates her own failings.
Setting that aside for now, the episode begins with Pearl & Garnet heading out in an attempt to locate and seize Jasper after the events of Gem Hunt. This causes a scheduling conflict as Connie was supposed to have Sword training, leaving her & Steven to practice combat training alone under the ‘supervision’ of Amethyst. After Amethyst relays her aforementioned advice, the quartet (Lion’s also present) head out for a snack break, opting to spend the rest of the day having fun & relaxing. This section of the episode is nothing too special honestly, and doesn’t really provide a lot of laughs along the way either. It’s strongest suit is the visual jokes throughout, the show gets a lot of mileage out of Amethyst’s propensity for shape-shifting, and the expressions on Lion’s face are a constant source of entertainment.
The episode takes a sudden turn when Jasper appears with corrupted gems in tow. Amethyst quickly surfboards into action, protecting Steven and Connie from the first corrupted gem in impressive fashion. Displaying her mentality in action for herself but things don’t proceed as smoothly once her attentions shifts to defeating Jasper. Jasper is essentially the symbol of what Amethyst was intended to be, a powerful soldier Quartz, but as expressed in “Too Far”, Amethyst came out ‘defective’, hence her short stature. Much like how the visuals were the strongest aspect of the episodes first half, they remain the most dominant component in the latter half. Amethyst’s fight with Jasper is really well-shot, constantly emphasizing the size difference, the symbol of Amethyst’s insecurities, as frequently as possible. The great shot composition doesn’t end when Jasper manages to poof Amethyst. Focusing on just Jasper’s hand enclosing on Amethyst’s gem carries a great sense of dread, and I love the shots of the newly reformed Amethyst viewing the victorious Stevonnie. As an aside to this, the moment is punctuated by the fantastic score in this show. The track itself only last a few seconds, as does the moment itself but manages to capture the awe of Stevonnie’s progress while also hinting at the pain that realization inevitably causes Amethyst.
The action choreography here in general is the best the series ever showcased. Steven Universe has a lot of strengths but typically speaking, fight sequences haven’t been one of them. It’s not really a flaw per say, since the series never really featured battles for the sake of them, instead choosing to tie battles into character development and when they didn’t, they at least managed to contain some pretty impressive visual designs, like in “Super Watermelon Island”. Here though, not only does the action only serve to advance the characters involved, but the action itself flowed really well-together and made great use of the powers involved. Seeing Stevonnie & Lion taking down Jasper was satisfying not only because it was huge step-forward for them but because the construction of the battle was entertaining on its own. This praise extends itself to the first half of the episode too, the training sequence between Steven and Connie wisely made use their individual abilities at a quick pace. That’s not to say it was perfect though, I wish the final blow to Jasper was delivered at a quicker pace to provide a greater impact and the spin dash series seemed to be a bit more comical than I would’ve liked but those gripes are minute when the whole package is this top-notch.
It feels weird to dedicate the majority of a Steven Universe to analyzing a fight sequence but it’s a welcome change of pace since it illustrates that the crew of the series are steadily improving all facets of their craft. I haven’t even discussed how they raised the stakes by incorporating battle scars and how in the case of Amethyst, it’s used to provide even more contrast between her ‘defective’ self and Jasper. Overall “Crack the Whip” is only the starting line. While Jasper returned to her home in the sea, Amethyst has been left with a devalued sense of self-worth. It’ll be interesting to see how the series addresses the perspectives gained in the following episodes.