Mark Watches ‘Steven Universe’: S05E17 – Can’t Go Back

In the seventeenth episode of the fifth season of Steven Universe, Ronaldo accidentally helps Steven find a friend. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe. 

Trigger Warning: For talk of trauma.

Well, I suppose I should have known this show was waiting around to destroy me. 

“Can’t Go Back” continues the complicated but DEEPLY RELATABLE story for Lapis Lazuli, and lord, do I ever feel for her. It would have been easier to have Lapis be courageous, to put aside her fears and conquer them, and to give us victory. I think it’s much more challenging to depict Lapis choosing to protect herself over choosing companionship. Y’all, even typing that makes me sad because I UNDERSTAND THIS FEELING SO MUCH. 

Lemme back up a bit. When Steven finds Lapis on the moon, the barn is still in the exact same condition it was before Lapis transported it away. Obviously, it’s shocking that Lapis never made it beyond the moon given what she said as she left Earth. So, when Steven locates her in the control room, he gets a glimpse of what has kept her close. Now, it was important to me to view this through the context of her trauma. Lapis experienced some terrible shit over the years, and her fear of the Diamonds is completely understandable. Look, I get why she left in “Raising the Barn,” and I also get why she observes life in Beach City without ever getting involved herself. How can she? After leaving in such a dramatic, painful manner, Lapis worries that there’s no space for her. Seriously, look how she imagines herself as a part of the Crystal Gems during her AMAZING song, yet the image of her shadow is passed over, walked through. It’s only a fantasy in her mind because she no longer can conceive of being back on Earth. Her terror over a potential war with the Diamonds keeps her from that.

That fear is so real, though. If anything, this show has consistently portrayed the Diamonds as antagonists that have virtually no weaknesses. Every time the Gems have bested them, it was through trickery. Wits. Red herrings. It’s not a matter of direct force, and if the Diamonds decided to invade Earth right now, I don’t know that the Gems would be able to stop them. Let me personalize this, though: Lapis also doesn’t want to suffer like this again. She can’t go through this kind of experience, and her trauma is exacerbated by thoughts of facing the Diamonds again. I know I’m biased in this regard, but I can’t imagine going through certain things a second time, and I understand the impulse, the desire, the rationalization that I want to protect myself from harm. 

So how do you make a choice when loneliness and trauma collide? Do you choose to risk harm in order to be around other people? Or do you save yourself at the expense of companionship? Steven did the best job he could here, y’all, and ultimately, I don’t know that he could have done things differently. He didn’t invalidate Lapis’s fear, and he helped her realize that maybe things had irrevocably changed, but just because things would be different back home didn’t mean they’d be worthless. And I liked that message: different doesn’t necessarily mean bad. It’s just… different.

And then the dream happens.

Y’all, I don’t even know how to interpret that. Was Steven glimpsing the truth, or was his mind just putting shit together randomly? I assume that’s why he wants to talk to Pearl; he needs to know exactly what transpired during the war against the Diamonds. Because those shadow images seemed to suggest that Pearl was the one who shattered Pink Diamond, but used Rose Quartz’s sword to do it. Which… what the fuck??? If that’s the case, then why the hell have we always been told Rose shattered Pink Diamond? Why cover this up? I’M SO CONFUSED. 

On top of that, the timing of that dream upsets Lapis, who is now gone again, and I AM VERY UPSET. What the hell, Steven Universe???

The video for “Can’t Go Back” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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