Picking up right where “Gem Heist” leaves off, we see exactly how Greg, or Ga-reg’s, life in captivity has been. Despite his own content nature at the situation, the human zoo remains an unsettling trip.
While the human zoo is comparative to Earth zoo’s in the manner that Steven initially assumes, with the tricks for peanuts bit, it’s still not a happy place despite the inhabitants own outlook. Ignoring the Universe’s, everyone in the human zoo was born there, without any concept of outside life, and even more disconcerting, of free will and pain. They’ve always had their lives regimented for them, and all their decisions formed by a singular voice they hear through their earrings. They smell flowers, play by rolling down hills and extending their arms to the sky, eat fruits, and take swim baths all at the prompt at the female voice, with the implication being that their isn’t much variety in their activity structure. Greg mentions how the voice already conditioned him to the Zooman’s sleep schedule and Wy-Six mentions that he hasn’t had this much fun since yesterday, which at least to me seems to imply that his daily routine of fun features the same activities each day. The only aspect of their life that seems to have any variance is the color of the food the eat, as Wy-Six eagerly tells Ste-van that it’s purple today. Not only do they not possess the free will to decide their own itinerary, but they also express confusion when Steven suggest that he doesn’t want to follow the Little Voice. The end result is that the Zoomans don’t contain any individuality, outside of their physical characteristics they’re all identical to one another. Possessing the same happy-go-lucky attitude while also lacking any idiosyncrasy in their speech or mindset. All of them talk in the same homogeneous cadence and tone all throughout the episode, and it’s one of the best decisions in term of getting across the more sinister nature of the Zoo.
This however, does backfire in one particular scene though. Early on in the episode when Greg formally introduces the Zoomen and Steven, the former engage in their own Steven impression, perfectly in-sync as they all chant “The bits”. Or at least, that’s what I’d like to say, but oddly enough there’s one occupant that isn’t participating, and even seems depressed at the event. At first I thought this was going to be a vital piece of foreshadow, that this one person at least shared Steven’s displeasure with the zoo. But at least in terms of this episode, this turns out to be a false hope, as said resident is seen throughout the rest of the episode sharing the mannerisms of their compatriots (though notably, in the second picture said Zooman’s laugh doesn’t feature the same upward tilt to it, but I may be reading too much into that). Granted, the ‘rebel’ was present for the choosening, but I’m pretty disappointed that the moment turned out to be irrelevant thus far, since it’s counter-intuitive to the point of the zoo to include and follow-up on. I’m faithful that this will be addressed in a later episode but there’s a chance it won’t, and in that case, it’s hard to look at this as anything other than a flaw.
That aside, Steven immediately recognizes the issues with the purported Utopian that Greg and himself find themselves within, whereas Greg clearly doesn’t, basically accepting their nature until the Choosening ceremony takes place. I really appreciate Greg’s perspective actually, that he understands their situation is able to comfortable co-exist with them for a lengthy period of time, I think that encapsulates Greg pretty well, though my own personal reaction here would likely be closer to Steven’s. And on that note, it’s easy to see why all the Zoomen chooses Greg when he presents them with the ability to choice, not only does he seamless adapt to their way of living but he produces them with new possibilities and options whether it be something simple like a cannonball or meaningful like determining your own romantic partners. The idea of him breaking all their hearts (without all his hair too!) by turning them down, causing the door to open and the Amethysts to come charging in for comfort (one has to wonder if our Amethyst sneaked in there as well) is a satisfying conclusion to the episode. I particularly like their Flintstone run before being caught.
However, I think the most interesting element of the past two episodes is how it emphasizes the Crystal Gems need to rebel. It reinforces the reason why Rose Quartz shattered Pink Diamond for example, by showcasing the fate of both the Gems and the humans in the event that the war never happened. In “Gem Heist” we witnessed it from the Gem perspectives, as they’re all forced backed into the caste system they escaped from. Here we see what would’ve happened to any surviving human, and despite a pleasant appearance, it’s certainly far from an ideal situation. Finally, this is Steven Universe so it’s all still tackled in a humorous light. Outside of the previously alluded to hair joke, I also got a chuckle out of Wy-Six’s ignorance on doors and the plan to beat up Greg in order to escape. Only one more episode left of this arc, here’s to hoping it ends strong.