This Steven Universe review contains spoilers.
Steven Universe Episodes 29, 30, 31, 32 Change Your Mind Review
“If every porkchop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs.”
As previously stated in my Steven Universe: The Essential Episodes guide, that line was always the mission statement for the show. These characters are all cast offs from society. They don’t fit any particular mold but are still worthwhile. You’re still valuable, despite your imperfections.
And that’s what it all comes down to. Seeming perfection v. imperfection. White v. Pink. There’s a lot to unpack with this episode but it all really comes down to family. Steven had an unconventional family but it was a family none the less. He loved them. On the flipside, there was Pink/Rose’s original family, the Diamonds. We get more insight into just why Pink left. Yes the Gem society was imperfect but more personally, the other Diamonds mistreated her. They wanted her to act a certain way. If she didn’t conform, they hurt her. They made her cry.
Throughout the episode Blue and Yellow slowly start to realize what they’ve done. Pink didn’t fail them, they failed her. They were so concerned trying to live up to “perfection” they hurt anyone who got in their way. Forced them to be perfect. But that’s not perfection, as Steven points out. Is hurting others perfection? Is hurting your own perfection? It’s not. It took Blue and Yellow so long to realize it but they finally did.
They were just hiding it all. Trying to bury those imperfections deep down. Masking all their horrific actions with an excuse of living up to something completely unobtainable. They lost all sense of meaning. All happiness. As Steven put it,
“If you just wipe everything away you see as flawed, you lose all the things that make you happy.”
Blue, Yellow, and even White didn’t want to admit those flaws because if they did? They’d have to admit everything else is broken. So they kept staking up lies and horrors. Just to maintain the illusion everything was fine. But it wasn’t. Down to White Diamond’s Pearl, the cracks were visible. It was all coming to a breaking point and Steven was able to crack it wide open.
Steven’s desire to talk this all out finally starts to sink in, at least with Yellow and Blue. His words finally get through and they admit what they’ve done. White however isn’t so easily swayed. The epic battle that commences is one that could have a whole article written about it, but the highlight is of course seeing Steven fuse with Pearl and Garnet.
The sequence is incredible but all too brief. I understand why they waited for this “final” battle to deploy some of the fusions, but I wish we had more time with Rainbow Quartz 2.0, Sunstone, or Obsidian. With how much the series dawdled in some episodes you wish these vital fusions had been given a bigger chance to shine then casually get swept aside by White.
But it does help raise the stakes. New fusions were always a game over for any opponent the team was facing. Not so here. Sunstone’s hilarious and over the top advice is great, but it isn’t enough. They need more than their usual bag of tricks.
Things get even direr when they finally confront White Diamond face to face. She makes quick work of the other Gems, draining their color and putting them under her control. She drains all their “imperfections” and in doing so drains out who they are. That’s the most horrifying thing of all.
This whole sequence, in fact the whole episode, reads as a giant metaphor for the horrific things that can happen between families. To run with that, White is the mother. Demanding her children be perfect to make things better. Demanding they follow her vision of the world without letting them be who they really are. If they just stay in the box she’s created, they’ll be happy. She’ll be happy.
But it doesn’t work like that, people can be whatever they want. They can become something, well, entirely new. When White takes Steven’s gem (in a horrifying sequence) it’s finally proven Steven isn’t his mom. He’s his own person. His greatest power is loving himself. That moment he dances with himself? That proves that you can have imperfections and still love yourself. It’s a physical manifestation of what much of the series has been building towards. Love the imperfections in yourself and others.
White is finally exposed to her own imperfections. She becomes off color. She finally realizes he can’t force people to be anything but who they are. She also, possibly, realizes she needs to be herself to.
“If I’m not perfect, who am I?”
White Diamond will have to figure that out on her own.
It all ends with the whole gang, plus the Diamonds, visiting Earth. It’s great to see Lars and Sadie reunite and I will never get over Ronaldo just staring slack jawed at all of this. He was finally proven right. This will keep Beach City weird for a long time.
The final montage is nice but it actually exposes a big problem with this episode. Jasper is reformed and Amethyst seemingly forgives her. In fact, the Diamonds also seem forgiven by Steven. While I can appreciate the sentiment that, because they’ve realized the error of their ways, everyone can be happy and be friends… It doesn’t work.
The show doesn’t hold these people accountable for what they’ve done. Jasper gets forgiven by Amethyst, even after the horrific things she did to Lapis? The Diamonds get off scot free, despite having murdered and conquered untold numbers of worlds?
No, it can’t be that simple. We still have Steven Universe: The Movie (and maybe season 6), so perhaps this will all be addressed. As it stands now though, this idea of “everyone is forgiven and we’re all friends” is too easy. This needs to be explored. I’m not saying people who’ve done bad things don’t deserve forgiveness or a second chance, but Jasper was a horrific abuser. The Diamonds murdered so many people. Are we just supposed to forget about that? How do the other Gems feel? What about the rest of Crystal Gem society?
It leaves the episode on a sour note, which is unfortunate because the rest is so good. The animation, especially in the final White Diamond climax, is movie level. The music, the acting, the staging, everything is incredible. However, after the series has done so well at showing the effects of abuse, the moral of “just talk it out” is what we’re left with?
No, I can’t agree with that. Not everyone can be reasoned with. Not everyone will come around to your side. It’s a nice aspirational idea but not practical. Steven Universe should be better than this.
There’s a wealth of ideas here that could still work in Steven Universe: The Movie if they so choose. If we get Lapis or any of the other Gems rejecting this idea of “just talking it out” maybe I’ll feel better about this plot. Hopefully we do.
The mission statement of the show, embracing your imperfections and loving yourself, is still good. Steven Universe is still an incredible show, but I’m sadly left with a bad taste in my mouth.