This Steven Universe review contains spoilers.
Steven Universe Season 4 Episode 12
If it weren’t obvious by the last episode, “Adventures in Light Distortion” makes it clear the newest StevenBomb is squarely centered on Steven’s emotional journey. In “Steven’s Dream,” Steven is gung-ho to find out any information on Pink Diamond he can. He doesn’t listen to warning or reason and that comes to bite him in the ass when Greg gets taken.
Now Steven has to deal with the consequences of his actions. He has to deal with the crushing weight of responsibility. This has got to be set up for what happened between Rose and Pink Diamond. Steven Universe often employs these kinds of parallel plots to strength its stories, even if they’re only in the background.
I joked at the end of the last review about the movie Greg and Steven were watching and how it referenced the events that would happen later in the episode. Maybe it’s more then just some funny foreshadowing. Maybe it’s clueing the viewer in that Steven’s journey in these episodes will parallel Rose. I’ll return to this point later.
Our big reveal for this episode is that Pink Diamond kept a human zoo. She saw humans as trophies, things to be caged up. Contrast that with Rose, who saw humans free will as their strongest trait. Could this be part of Pink Diamond and Rose’s conflict? Was Rose ashamed she couldn’t go back for the humans? What happened to them? Were they experimented on as some of the Gem Monsters had been?
Steven doesn’t care about the specifics right now; he just wants to get into space as quickly as possible. He leaves Connie behind and doesn’t let Peridot finish her explanation of how the ship works. Steven’s impulsive decisions lead to the episodes central conflict, the trip to the Human Zoo.
Steven is blinded by his own mistakes. He doesn’t even bat an eye at the Rubies that are still stuck in space bouncing off the ship. A vision of one of the Rubies haunted him in “Mindful Education” so it’s worrying Steven doesn’t even react to them floating out there. The kind and sensitive Steven is gone at this point. “Serious” Steven has taken over.
Thankfully, even this new Serious Steven has time for a joke when he activates the ship’s engine. “If being a pancake means saving my dad? Bring on the syrup!” Besides being an excellent Steven line that deserves to be on a t-shirt, Steven refuses to think of himself. He’s still consumed with guilt, and the lessons he learned in “Mindful Education” are forgotten. He has to let himself feel bad about what he did, even if it wasn’t his fault as Garnet reminds him by episodes end.
This episode is positioning “Mindful Education” as a huge touch point for the series, in that being mindful is what will ultimately be Steven’s greatest asset. Not Rose’s shield or sword, but his own unique mind and outlook.
Look at what happens when Steven activates the engine. The Gems are squished. At first it’s comical but when Steven speeds the ship up? They’re turned back into their most basic forms, gemstones. Steven can barely move. It’s telling that Steven is only partially affected by Gem technology, as we’ve also seen in “Jailbreak” where he was able to escape the prisons with minimal effect.
Steven at first tries to focus on the positive but it isn’t enough. He forgot about those he cares about. He’s not focused just on helping Greg, he’s focused on making his mistake right. He’s shouldering all of that blame and it finally breaks him. He cries, begging for help from his dad. It’s an emotionally raw moment for Steven, more than any other. These two episodes have had Steven trying to take charge and be in control, but he’s still a little boy. He needs help, badly.
It’s in this release of emotion where Steven acknowledges just how bad everything is he’s able to muster the strength to stop the ship. Mindfulness wins in the end.
As mentioned earlier, I think the events here will mirror what happened with Rose. Perhaps, as Steven did in episode one, Rose discovered some new information about the Diamonds but was blocked at every turn. In seeking this information out, something horrific happened to someone she knew (perhaps Pink Diamond herself?) She then, as Steven does in the episode, did whatever she had to fix that mistake and it only got worse. We’ll see if this theory plays out in the rest of the episodes.
Some other small observations from this episode. Pearl makes a clear effort to not mention whom she served. Was it Pink Diamond? Another Diamond? Perhaps not a Diamond at all? I hope we get some more Pearl backstory because that line sounded like it was setting up a future plot point.
We also got some ideas of just how different Gems can look with all the various settings Steven went through on the ship. Are their gems that don’t even resemble a basic human form? Perhaps that was just a product of the ships increasing speed but it would be a great addition to Gem culture for certain Gems to project themselves in a non human appearing form.
While last episode was a strong start, this one kicked the arc into high gear. I do wonder if when the Crystal Gems return to Earth, will they come back at around the same time they left? Will a time skip happen?
Shamus Kelley is now available at Gurgens off Route 109! Follow him on Twitter!