What we learned from Nightmare Hospital

Nightmare Hospital was the best kind of episode, working in some great character moments while passing us some lore under the table. The lore could probably be classified as subtle since no special efforts were made to call attention to it, but we’re always on the lookout. Read on for a spoilerific overview.

The cluster

After Friend Ship we had a lot of speculation about Earth’s expiration date. We were prepared to keep our eyes peeled for a while, but instead we apparently got an answer in the very next episode (as the break ends you need to remember that while it may have been almost two months of real time no episodes were aired in between them).

We figured the cluster fusions made the most sense and sure enough we have multiple cluster fusions stumbling around, apparently ready to cause trouble (though more on that tomorrow). Right now they don’t seem to be that dangerous, considering how easily Connie was able to defeat them in one-on-one fights. Still, this was just a fight against two of them; in any good zombie movie it’s the pack that’s the big danger.

We don’t know if the cluster fusions might start fusing themselves into truly formidable foes, if “the cluster” was a reference to a single enormous fusion monster, or if the danger to Earth will come from the sheer number of cluster fusions that it has been seeded with. Right now it definitely looks like the fusion experiments are going to be a big problem, perhaps even becoming the subject of the mid-season finale (in which case we don’t know when Malachite will be dealt with, unless it’s at the same time) or coinciding with the arrival of Yellow Diamond (probably at the end of the season, which would be super-cool).

Almost a year

We’ve seen indications of the passing of time on Steven Universe before, but we are not accustomed to such specific indications. Nightmare Hospital takes place “almost a year” after An Indirect Kiss, when Steven restored Connie’s vision.

The first Beachapalooza we saw was during Steven and the Stevens, which happened some time before An Indirect Kiss. Another Beachapalooza will happen either during or not long after Sadie’s Song. It’s a safe bet that we missed Steven’s birthday, which is a shame. We were really looking forward to learning how old Steven was, but we’ll have to find out another way since it will be quite some time until Steven’s next birthday. Perhaps the graphic novel will have the information we need.

Still blind to the fantastic

Back when Story for Steven aired we wondered about how humanity perceives Gems (both in lore implications and speculation). In Nightmare Hospital Dr. Maheswaran (and, implicitly, the rest of the hospital staff) displayed the same odd reaction to the cluster fusions as others do towards the Crystal Gems: they clearly recognize that something is wrong, but they also clearly don’t react towards it as if it is special.

Dr. Maheswaran knew that whatever made the cluster fusion that way, it wasn’t a car crash. At the same time she expects that someone with no head and six arms should normally be carrying around a means of identification, and agrees to carry on with the treatment. She found her previous patient, a cluster fusion with a gem where its head should be and two arms where just one should be, she considered to be grotesquely injured, but again there was no classification if it as Alien or Other whereas to we viewers it’s clearly not human.

In our world it’s impossible to imagine a doctor carrying on with treatment on either of those cluster fusions. It’s difficult to imagine them even being taken to a hospital, at least without scientific experts being called upon to swarm the hospital to figure out just what the thing is. Fans have made fun of Dr. Maheswaran for how she acted, but her behavior clearly fits a pattern displayed by humans towards the fantastic.

In Steven Universe the rules are different. Gem magic may not be normal to them, but it’s not alien either. It apparently reads to them as merely odd, but mundane all the same. Dr. Maheswaran and the rest of her hospital join the list of people who don’t live in Beach City, and therefore don’t see the Crystal Gems, who don’t seem to know what Gems are but still take magic in stride.


  1. Wouldn’t he be 13 now? He was 11 in the pilot, and 12 when the series started out.

      • gc13 on September 12, 2015 at 11:56 pm

      They don’t say his age in the pilot or anywhere in the series, and the pilot isn’t canon anyway. Right now we’re still guessing his age.

      1. Huh. Strange.

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