In the eleventh episode of the fourth season of Steven Universe, a dream leads Steven to a shocking discovery. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Trigger Warning: For talk of death, grief, and trauma.
GOOD GODS, WHAT JUST HAPPENED.
I know that Steven Universe does this. I have experienced this show breaking my heart more times than I can recall. Yet it’s true that this show seems to know just how to make me feel despondent, sad, and raw. I can’t believe I’m now sad for a character dying on this show when I haven’t even met them yet.
That’s a testament to how powerful “Steven’s Dream” is. The episode is surreal in nature, despite that dreams have been a narrative tool in the past, but the images are rooted in something real, something painful. Steven’s been a conduit, too, though I hadn’t considered that as the episode opened. I assumed that he was close to a memory of Rose’s, that in his dreams, he was able to access the trauma around Pink Diamond being shattered.
However, that reality was much further away from Steven. In the moment, Steven was more interested in the truth. That means “Steven’s Dream” is the first real test as to whether or not the Crystal Gems would tell Steven the truth about things that happened in his past. I empathized with Steven here because it was so frustrating to watch the gems break their promise so quickly. Granted, I empathized with Garnet and Pearl once I knew why they had difficulty talking about Pink Diamond’s palanquin, and that’s to the credit of “Steven’s Dream.” The writers came up with a scenario that’s messy and complicated, and that’s a good thing.
Ultimately, the truth hurts. It hurts when people think you’re not ready for it, and Steven’s anger felt so real, so focused, so important in this episode. He’s expected to fight in battles, but he isn’t supposed to know what happened in battles from long ago? He has to live in the shadow of his mother, but he can’t ask uncomfortable questions about her? It does seem deeply unfair when you frame it like that, doesn’t it? Thus, his decision to take off with his father to find out the truth about the palanquin was a huge turning point, especially since Garnet more or less gave her blessing. She was certain that things would end terribly if he went, but notice that she doesn’t force Steven to stay. She respects that he has to make this decision for himself!
AND THEN WE GET A MONTAGE OF ANDY AND TRAVELING AND SOUVENIRS AND EVERYTHING IS GREAT AND WONDERFUL. In that sense, this episode was a success because Steven got to go on a vacation and get closer with his father and y’all know how much I love friendship. But really, “Steven’s Dream” hinges on a confrontation, one that changes my perception of Homeworld. Well, at least one gem from Homeworld, I should say. Given what we’d seen of Yellow Diamond, I was expecting more of the same because… well, why would they be any different? The Diamonds are revered in Homeworld society, so I had no reason to believe that Blue Diamond would be any different.
BUT SHE’S TOTALLY DIFFERENT. She’s not haughty and cruel, though I wonder how much of that has to do with the fact that Steven and Greg come upon her as she’s grieving. What is she like when she’s not mourning the loss of Pink Diamond? She seemed understanding and curious towards Greg, but… is that enough? She causally reveals the existence of a geo-weapon (that isn’t the Cluster????) that’ll destroy Earth, but she does nothing to stop it. Greg and Blue Diamond share an incredibly intimate moment, but she still kidnaps him!
She’s a walking contradiction, but I think that’s the point. We can recognize the pain that she is going through as she mourns the loss of a friends. That’s exactly what Greg does here, even though the situation is frightening and weird. He comforts someone who is a stranger! I know talk often of how Steven’s kindness comes from Rose Quartz, but you know what? It comes from his father, too! Greg’s got a gentle soul, and you can see how it rubbed off on his son, too.
God, I have so many questions, y’all. Isn’t there another Diamond? Do they all have very different personalities? Why did Rose Quartz decide to shatter Pink Diamond? What is Blue Diamond going to do with a human? What did it mean when Blue Diamond said that Earth was Pink Diamond’s planet? HOW ARE THE GEMS GOING TO TRAVEL IN SPACE???
What a place to be cliffhanger’d by my schedule. DAMN IT.
The video for “Steven’s Dream” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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