In the twenty-fifth episode of the fifth season of Steven Universe, Steven struggles to find his place on Homeworld. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Oh, this was so weird, and I really, really enjoyed it. The first half of “Familiar” does a fantastic job at making everything feel like the opposite of the title. None of this makes sense, and there are tiny details—as well as larger ones!—along the way that push Homeworld into a stranger and stranger place. There is little here that makes Steven feel comfortable here because, simply put, he is not Pink Diamond. His mom didn’t exactly prepare him to return to her home, and I imagine she figured it wouldn’t ever happen. She’d done what she could to save Earth, and I bet Pink Diamond hoped that the planet would be safe forever.
Yet Steven has pushed this story ahead in surprising directions, and that remains one of my favorite things about it. Five seasons in, he’s still fighting against being a pawn or being a character in someone else’s plot. But it’s hard work, and he learns that the hard way here. White Diamond has Steven sent to Pink’s room after he gets in two-and-a-half words, which, according to Yellow, is a record. So, while we don’t get that much concrete information on White Diamond, I think there’s lots to gain from subtext and reading between the lines. White Diamond may have one time been close to the Diamonds, but Pink’s “shattering” pulled them apart, and White has stayed in her own world (and mind) most of the time since then. As for the others, Steven comes to realize that, as he jokes, being a dictator means you’re really busy. Everyone doesn’t drop their normal responsibilities in order to help Steven, and even if they had time, what the hell could they even do? No one can reach White Diamond.
Before I talk about Steven’s epiphany and plan, though, I really wanna discuss some worldbuilding stuff because WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON on Homeworld??? First of all, there are the Pebbles, which I’ve named solely because Steven calls them that. We see later during the big musical number that when Steven cried, his tear made a rock come to life. So… is that where all the Pebbles came from? Are they only in Pink’s room? I’d say that’s the case, but throughout “Familiar,” there are a disturbing number of living objects, and I feel like they weren’t shown to us just for weirdness’s sake? Blue’s brush sings to her, and it looked a lot like one of the pebbles. What about the walls that lead into Yellow’s sauna like room? Or the statues outside Blue’s pool? Where does that water drain? Why did Yellow’s drain only have three diamond colors, while Blue’s had four? WHY IS EVERYTHING ALIVE, THAT’S SO CREEPY! But I wonder if it’s a means of commenting on how Homeworld is constructed, both internally and externally. Yellow and Blue (and even Pearl to an extent) are so casual when discussing colonization, and so it makes a twisted amount of sense that the literal walls of their buildings would be made of living creatures. Everything exists within a terrifying hierarchy here, right? So where would building supplies fit?
Anyway, let’s talk about that song. Because WOW, I love the songs on this show, and “Familiar” is no exception. And it fits so well into the narrative structure of a musical, too, since it advances the plot and characterization. For Steven, nothing on Homeworld is immediately recognizable or sensical; instead, it’s all just vaguely familiar. Indeed, I’d say that Steven wasn’t just trying to talk to White Diamond with Blue and Yellow’s help; he was also trying to figure out what the hell his mother did all day. He can glean a sense of that from content clues, but it’s only after singing about his confusing and disappointing feelings that he pieces together a possible truth. Maybe Pink fought so hard for attention and relevance that she finally discovered how to bring everyone together. I love the callback to earlier in the show and how the Crystal Gems would still find time to be entertained by Steven! He got that from his mother!
But y’all, you know what I love most? His Cinderella-like transformation, and that outfit, and the fact that Pearl treats it like it’s just a normal thing for Steven to wear. AH, IT’S SO PRETTY, I LOVE EVERY SECOND OF IT. OH GOD. This ball is going to be ridiculous! But will it work? I have no clue. White Diamond seems… impenetrable? Aloof? Will this attempt at unity finally get her attention?
The video for “Familiar” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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