“Gem Heist” doesn’t contain the emotional punch as the last two episodes, but it’s still one of the seasons strongest efforts.
While “Steven’s Dream” set up this arc’s main conflict and “Adventures in Light Distortion” dealt with the emotional ramifications of the situation, “Gem Heist” begins tackling the plot resolution, as the Crystal Gems are forced to infiltrate the human zoo. Their method of operation is simple enough, play the roles each were previously assigned in the old Gem Hierarchy that they use to subscribe to. The caste system of the Gems is one of the series more interesting elements, so dedicating an entire episode to forcing them to play the roles they fought so hard against was an easy way to please me. Sans Amethyst of course, whose own issues stemmed from her inability to achieve the attributes of her Gem, as last season adroitly addressed. Instead, she faces the difficulties of trying to fit within an infrastructure that she’s foreign too, though we don’t experience much of her trials here.
Most of this episode’s entertainment comes from simply watching them begrudgingly interact under the Gem caste system but nobody’s highlighted quite as much as Pearl. This makes perfect sense, seeing as her position is the most demeaning one, as opposed to Sapphire who gets showered with love by Holly Blue Agate or Ruby who simply needs to keep her composure as a guard when Blue Diamond is mentioned in a glowing light. Criticized for walking on equal level with Sapphire and even for talking a little, she’s treated as nothing more than a door opener throughout the episode. Which leaves to one of the funniest moments of the episode when Ruby asks Pearl to open the door, “Of course. What else am I good for” as well as one of the more heartwarming touches of Sapphire and Steven lending her their support earlier on.
There isn’t actually too much to discuss with this one outside of that, for a welcome change of pace. That’s not meant as an insult either, the episode sets-up an interesting premise, taking a logical direction in the narrative while providing some character insight, and manages to deliver a good amount of chuckles along. The combination of humor and plot never meshed quite as well as Sapphire’s joke of the episode that their plan would ultimately fail. Since future vision’s introduction, it’s been a really solid narrative driver as well as providing some of the series funniest jokes. Although the visual gag of only Ruby understanding Sapphire’s wink is among the upper echelon of Steven Universe jokes as well.
Outside of the caste system, the final talking point would be how the last few minutes set-up the next episode. Steven is finally sent to the Human Zoo proper, after failing to open the door to it earlier. This includes a lengthy segment where Peridot finger limb enhancements probe and outfit Steven in a new wardrobe before promptly dropping him into the Human Zoo. It’s here he finally witnesses what happened to his father, and being that his father is Greg Universe, it’s no surprise that he’s pretty happy. That dude can survive anywhere.