This Steven Universe review contains spoilers.
Steven Universe Season 4 Episode 14
Now that’s how you do a breather episode in the middle of a huge arc. The Zoo sets up enough questions while also being a satisfying outing in its own right. Let’s take a gander, shall we?
Steven emerges in the Zoo and it’s nothing like what he expected. In fact, it’s a paradise… on the surface. All of the Zoomans (nice one, Greg) are completely complacent with a disembodied voice telling them how to live their lives. When to eat, when to play, when to bathe, and when to sleep. While Greg is willing to go along with this, Steven is instantly on guard. Not only does he know they’re in the Zoo, but Steven has grown to resist this kind of conformity.
A seminal episode for the show, ‘Fusion Cuisine’ introduced that Steven felt uncomfortable adapting to anyone else’s view of what a family structure should be like. He went along with Connie’s plan in that episode but it backfired. More recently in “Gem Harvest” Steven refused to compromise his worldview around Andy. So to see everyone here so blindly go along with what this voice tells them to do? It puts Steven on edge.
It also works, once again, as a parallel to Rose. While we can assume Pink Diamond wanted simply to keep the humans from Earth as little more than curiosities, she also didn’t want them to stay as they were on Earth. She wanted to be happy and complacent with life in the Zoo. Does this hint at something wider in Gem culture? We’ve seen so little of it, but most of the Gems we’ve seen outside of our main cast are very complacent in the roles they’ve been given. Pink Diamond assigning the Zoomans as “satisfied animals” would make sense in the context of her worldview. Or that would be universe view?
Rose, on the other hand, believed in free will. We don’t know where exactly she developed this notion, but she enjoyed the fact that humans could do whatever they wanted. It’s a subtle message from the show but an important one. Value your ability to choose your own future.
The fact these Zoomans are countless generations removed from the original kidnapped humans is intriguing. When I first there would be a human Zoo, I thought it might be filled with tens of thousands of people! After all, that’s usually how breeding works after awhile. Here though, Pink Diamond had clearly set up some sort of system where breeding is very carefully regulated and everyone is about the same age at all times. With what we see of the Choosening, this makes sense.
The Choosening itself strikes at a core theme of the show, one that was plainly stated in “The Answer.” Love. Love is so important to the fabric of the series. “Love Like You” is the ending theme and nearly all the main characters are defined by their love to each other in one form or another. For the Choosening to be such a bastardization of that kind of love highlights how different the Gems are from humans.
They are given the illusion of choice, but it’s predetermined. They don’t even have a word for choice hence ‘the choosening’. Since the Diamonds seem to employ Sapphires… That would go a long way to explain why they don’t believe in freewill. I can imagine Gem culture heavily relies on Sapphire’s and thus, why would they mess with fate? Why would they need love?
I would say Gems, besides the Crystal Gems, know nothing of love but Blue Diamond clearly had feelings for Pink Diamond, so perhaps these sorts of emotions are reserved for the elites while everyone else is kept on a shorter leash? So many intriguing questions to be had!
The Zoo, while not hitting the heights of “Adventures in Light Distortion” is still a solid outing for the series. I’m getting the feeling all of this won’t be wrapped up in the next episode and that excites me. If we’re in for a long arc like we had when the Gems lived at the Barn, then I’m hyped. If they’re going to travel all the way out here, let’s really make it last.
Still, I wonder about everyone back on Earth. Is anything big going on there? What if Lapis and Peridot are stopping Gem Monsters but not doing it in secret like the others? What if we get the “B Team” episode where Connie teams up with them and we get “Connie’s Universe”? Oh my god, I want that episode NOW.
Even if we don’t, something must be going down on Earth during all of this. Something that I’m sure will add to the weight of responsibility on Steven’s shoulders.
Shamus Kelley wants to be your rock and when he talks it lights a fire in you. Follow him on Twitter!