In the second episode of the fifth season of Steven Universe, Steven goes on trial for his mother. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
I WAS NOT READY FOR THIS. THAT’S LITERAL THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS EPISODE. NO ONE, NOT EVEN THE DIAMONDS, WAS EVEN REMOTELY PREPARED FOR WHERE THIS WOULD GO. Just… what the hell????
Even amidst one of the most tense episodes of this show, there is an immense amount of worldbuilding, and “The Trial” does wonders with very little. We’re introduced to the Zircons, a class of gems who exist only to support the accused in trials that go before the Diamonds. Perhaps they serve other roles, but from the way they look, I imagine the Zircons are more or less an extension of the Diamonds and their rule. Steven’s Zircon, for example, is a nervous wreck because they’ve been randomly chosen to defend a traitor and the only gem who ever shattered a Diamond. You can tell from context clues that this is about the most shameful thing they’ve ever experienced. And it made me wonder: what other cases are Zircons assigned? Is it mostly them having to deal with gems who have broken the repressive and draconian laws of homeworld? Does anyone ever successfully defend themselves, or is it all a formality?
Anyway, I feel like you could imagine a lot from this starting point, since “The Trial” uses a minimalist setting in order to build a whole lot of storytelling. Like, the fact that Steven gets only sixty seconds to meet his Zircon before the trial begins is so messed up, you know? But that’s part of this world, and it fits in with what we’ve seen of the Homeworld. The same goes for the trial itself, which looks like it operates inside a void or something. It’s so creepy! The first thing I noticed, however, is that aside from the Pearls that attended to Blue and Yellow Diamond and the other Zircon, there were no witnesses. No one else was in that court room. You know that has to be by design, right? I imagine it’s partially because not everyone “deserves” to see the Diamonds, but I also imagine it’s to maintain the cultural mythology of the trial process. No one sees what happens inside; they just see the end result. And that helps maintain order, right???
On top of this, though, there’s just so much character depth within this episode. Steven’s defense is a non-defense, and it relates deeply to his decision to sacrifice himself, as long as it will end the constant harassment/invasion of Earth. So he just straight-up confesses to his crime, to the horror of the Zircon defending him, and he begs them to punish him. It’s heartbreaking to watch because this whole episode is so scary and intimidating, and yet his intentions are genuine and real. This little boy is willing to give himself up to save his family, his friends, and AN ENTIRE PLANET FULL OF PEOPLE HE HAS NEVER MET. I just????? Have a lot of feelings????? About Steven?????
Yet even while attempting to answer for what his mother had done, Steven can’t satiate the Diamonds, especially Blue Diamond, who demands that Steven tell her all the details of Pink Diamond’s death at the hands of Rose Quartz. Which is when we all discover that Steven doesn’t actually know how it happened. Initially, that didn’t seem to be that big of a deal; I figured that if anything, it would just piss off the Diamonds even more. But that one moment unravels PRACTICALLY THE WHOLE FUCKING SERIES. From there, Steven’s Zircon realizes that if Steven doesn’t know how Rose Quartz shattered Pink Diamond, how does anyone else? How was Rose Quartz ever able to get past countless gems without one of them seeing something? How were they able to slip into Pink Diamond’s palanquin either? If no one can establish how this ever happened, then why is it accepted fact that Rose Quartz did this???
OH MY GOD. Y’ALL. IT IS NOW POSSIBLE THAT ROSE QUARTZ DIDN’T SHATTER PINK DIAMOND. WHAT IF IT WAS ALL A LIE, WHAT IF THE INVASIONS OF EARTH WERE BASED ON A LIE, WHAT IF MY WHOLE LIFE IS A LIE, TOO IS ANYTHING TRUE ANYMORE.
I am a mess. Steven and Lars are still on the Homeworld, being pursued by the Diamonds, and I don’t even know how they’re going to get home, let alone escape the forces chasing them. But now I have to question this whole narrative that I was sold! Who was Rose Quartz, and what did she actually do?
The video for “The Trial” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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