In the twenty-sixth episode of the fifth season of Steven Universe, Steven attempts to throw a party to get White Diamond’s attention. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Good lord, this was a LOT. I’m amazed by the way that “Together Alone” continues the world building I admired in the previous episode, using visual cues or dialogue to explain how Homeworld works to the audience. I figured from the start that Steven would have a hard time pulling off this “ball” because his idea of a dance party was most likely nothing like what we’d see here. I just was not prepared for how difficult and stuffy this process would be.
Which brings me to my first major point: Wow, there is no real joy in this world, is there? As Steven sets to organize the ball, he learns that there are rigid customs that must be followed in the execution of this event. Fair enough, that’s to be expected. But in the exploration of that, Steven and the Gems discover just how messed up this is. There’s no dancing on the part of the Diamonds. Fusions are not allowed. Diamonds must remain on their elevated thrones and “approve” of their court. Everything is organized. Detailed. Exact. And, in the mind of the gems of Homeworld, this is all an expression of perfection. This is how these beings “perfectly” express themselves. Which is literally the exact opposite of Steven and his family. (The deliberate parallel to bigots and repressive organizations in the real world is not lost on me, though. Oh my god, IT’S SO GOOD.) So how do you succeed at this?
What’s interesting is how much the Crystal Gems are willing to sacrifice to achieve their goal and how much they are not. Steven accepts the boring and uninteresting customs of Homeworld because he wants to talk to White Diamond. (That’s starting to increasingly worry me, by the way. Steven is so sure he can just talk White Diamond into his plan, but I fear that she is far, far beyond that. There are some people upon who logic, kindness, and empathy do not work. I think she’s one of them.) We also get Garnet’s angry refusal to unfuse in order to present as a Sapphire and a Ruby. I get Steven’s emotional reaction to this, but I also understood why she initially refused to be a part of the ball. Look how much she fought over the years to be herself. In a sense, I saw her refusal as a parallel to Bismuth, who refused to return to Homeworld after having suffered there for so long.
Of course, Garnet changes her mind, but it has such an incredible effect, y’all. I’ll get to that in a second because the ball itself is just SO TENSE AND WEIRD. And I am thinking of it in light of the nightmare that opens the episode, one where Steven chokes on Rose Quartz’s hair as he keeps coughing it up. This is indeed a continuation of the theme of this show of Steven trying to survive in the shadow of his mother. Now, he’s on Homeworld, trying to successfully dismantle the empire his mother used to be a part of, all while trying to navigate who she used to be. No matter how hard he tries, no one sees him as Steven; he’s ALWAYS Pink Diamond. That means he is treated a specific way by all the other gems: with a terrifying reverence. And Steven hates it! But he’s willing to sacrifice a lot of his comfort in order to get to White Diamond. That means he has to sit through gems basically worshipping him, and he has to act very differently from how he normally does.
During that, we see some new gems! And lord, those “cog” gems are the most disturbing ones to me. The show takes the notion of being a cog in a machine—a necessary but replaceable part—and makes them literalas we watch the gems dance around the ballroom floor for the Diamonds. It’s so upsetting, isn’t it???
And yet, this episode still had more to come that would mess me up even more. I didn’t realize Stevonnie would appear until about a few seconds before they did, but I did notice those two gems who broke from protocol. One cried when Blue Diamond entered, the other elbowed the gem next to them. What this episode shows us is that just existing as someone different and unique can often inspire others to do the same. Those gems fused after Stevonnie did, after Garnet did, after the Crystal Gems defied Blue and Yellow. IT WAS SUCH A BEAUTIFUL MOMENT. That was then immediately destroyed!!! Ugh, all that progress, and the Diamonds are still the same overlords, y’all. They can’t be defied, they don’t like change, and they believe their way is the only way. And White Diamond DIDN’T EVEN SHOW UP TO THE BALL. My gods, it’s such a disaster. All the Crystal Gems are now in their gem state, and Stevonnie is locked in Pink Diamond’s room. WHAT THE HELL.
The video for “Together Alone” can be downloaded here for $0.99. Please ignore that I say the wrong episode number at the start of the video; it’s the right one! Additionally, the next review goes up Thursday morning.
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