Mark Watches ‘Steven Universe’: S05E15 – Pool Hopping

In the fifteenth episode of the fifth season of Steven Universe, HELP ME, I AM OVERWHELMED WITH FEELINGS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe. 

Well, I got the episode I wanted, and I wasn’t ready! Like I said at the end of “Pool Hopping,” this was such an intimate episode, particularly in the context of season five. So much Big Stuff has transpired this season, but in contrast to that, this is about Garnet being random. Why? So she can “hop pools” of probability and gain a sharpness to her ability to see multiple threads of possibility. Which is a Big Thing in the grand scheme of Garnet’s characterization, but it’s achieved in such a small way!

At the start of this episode, we’re thrust into this randomness, but only after some necessary context that is actual foreshadowing. I DIDN’T REALIZE IT AT THE TIME, BUT IT TOTALLY IS. Beach City has changed, undeniably so, and through glimpses of those changes—like Mayor Nanefua sharing the evacuation plan with residents—we understand that this is not a static place. An adaptation has occurred, even if it’s not immediately obvious to us or even the people of Beach City. We start out with a larger view of this place, and then the episode narrows its focus from a whole town to just two of the people in it. How have they changed?

It’s not immediately apparent. That’s partially because Garnet was keeping information from Steven, of course, but it’s also because I had adjusted to the new realities of Beach City as well. Garnet’s future-reading abilities have always been a constant, though, and that’s absolutely why she experienced so much anxiety over the muddied flashes of those pools of possibility. She’s the natural leader of the Crystal Gems, and she’s also a parental figure for Steven. Thus, she’s got everyone looking up to her for… well, pretty much everything. Guidance, advice, a nudge down the right path. Which means that this is a lot of pressure for a single person to be under. Therefore, Steven’s unpredictable choices have contributed to her future vision clouding up more than they ever have before.

I was glad that Garnet didn’t necessarily blame Steven for this. It may have been the integral element to her transformation, but she didn’t wish Steven hadn’t made the many shocking decision she had made. No, this was more about her fear that she couldn’t be enough, that all these people suddenly couldn’t rely on her. That’s how we get this roundabout solution to the problem: Garnet pushes herself and Steven to make improbable decisions out of the hope that new pools of possibility will appear to her. All of thus leads us down a wacky path of pizza, muses, and a one-eyed kitten, and then promptly to one of the most emotional scenes of the whole season. It really was heartbreaking watching Garnet admit the truth because she clearly prides herself on being a source of stability and comfort for other people.

At the same time, it’s important to take care of yourself!!! Look, I tend to be the person in a friend group that people seek out for help and comfort, and I really do find that I’m naturally good at it. Plus, I like it. A whole construction of my identity/personality is being the person I wish I had as a kid and a teenager. But you know what? That can be exhausting, especially if I’m going through shit in my own life. I don’t just mean stress or being busy; I’m not exactly a dependable friend if I’m in a depressive episode, an anxiety spiral, or I’ve been triggered. It’s okay to take time for yourself. It’s perfectly okay for Garnet not to be the all-knowing, all-dependable leader. As Steven puts it, she can just choose to manifest what she wants in a situation, rather than what should happen.

It’s with that slight refocus that a whole world reveals itself to Garnet. She can choose what she wants to happen, and it honestly never occurred to her that this was a solution. AND LOOK HOW HAPPY SHE GETS ONE SHE REALIZES SHE’S BEEN APPROACHING THIS WRONG. She helps rescue those cats, she adopts one (WELCOME TO THE SHOW, CAT STEVEN), and then her mind is cleared, enough so that she can see that Steven has grown up before her eyes. Y’all, this made me so emotional. Steven has matured so much since the start of Steven Universe, AND GARNET IS SO HAPPY FOR HIM and I am so happy for him. This truly feels like the start of a new chapter, and it’s exciting. It shows us that the writers are still willing to push the show in new directions, and I, for one, and very pleased with this.

The video for “Pool Hopping” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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