In the twenty-eighth and final episode of the fifth season of Steven Universe, Steven tries to change White Diamond’s mind. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of imperialism, homophobia, and transphobia
They did it. They fucking did it. Not just the Crystal Gems—who have finally dismantled the harmful, ancient war over the colony of Earth—but the people behind this show. If you’ll recall, “A Single Pale Rose” completely confused and befuddled me when it aired, and I wasn’t sure how the show was going to deal with the reveal of Rose Quartz’s true identity. This ending sticks the landing, and it does so while addressing the core themes of the show, and I cried for a solid thirty minutes after it was over.
I have so many thoughts, and there are so many things I need to react to. LET’S DO THIS.
- I love a story where the opening scene is the “answer” to what comes after it. It’s now clear why Steven flashed between images of himself, Pink Diamond, and Rose Quartz. Steven Universe has long been a show about identity. It’s part of each of the Crystal Gems’ respective character arcs, but it is even more the case for Steven. Who is he in the wake of his birth? In the context of the war his mother started and left behind? When he fuses? When he develops his powers? And that struggle manifests itself in “Change Your Mind.” Is Steven himself, or will he always be haunted by Pink Diamond and her gem?
- I am so happy that Connie got to be a part of this story and that she matters to the plot. She’s important to this five-season arc! But I’m also thinking specifically of how clear it is that Connie has grown as a character. While Steven is in prison, Connie is a dependable, courageous force for him, despite that Steven easily has way more experience with Homeworld and the Diamonds. So it feels really significant to me that throughout this episode, Connie does not balk at the task before her. I LOVE CHARACTER GROWTH, Y’ALL.
- One of the more pervasive and satisfying motifs of this show has been the willingness of the characters to talk rather than fight. And yes, there are some spectacular fight scenes in this episode (I WILL NEVER RECOVER FROM OBSIDIAN), “Change Your Mind” also has multiple moments where Steven communicates to solve problems. You can see it in the first act of this story! He talks to Blue Diamond about how he feels and how he believes Pink Diamond felt every time she did not live up to the repressive and stressful standards that were expected of her. It’s because of this conversation that the first epiphany occurs, that the first mind is changed. Blue comes to realize that her own actions pushed Pink further and further away, so much so that she literally left to a planet far across the galaxy just to feel happy.
- It’s in this epiphany that I find such an incredibly meaningful story. I’ll reference this multiple times throughout, but it’s felt so clear to me that this was all a painstaking, detailed metaphor for identity. We live in a world that requires many of us to be “perfect,” to love and present like the majority, even if that very act makes us so deeply unhappy that we, too, try as hard as we can to escape. There’s even a specific example here: How many times do the Diamonds refuse to call Steven by his name? How many times do they keep referring to him as Pink when that is not who he is? (Oh god, I’m tearing up again thinking about the dance.) There’s no way that’s not an intentional reference to misgendering, and that makes it so much more meaningful when Blue later corrects Yellow and says his name is Steven.
- And it’s such a fascinating way to deal with this conflict, too! While I’m not expecting a political treatise on imperialism from Steven Universe, there is an aspect of imperialism and the way it flattens and steals and destroys cultures that is tied to perfectionism. What is the framework of perfection that is used to measure a society? In the case of the Diamonds, there was a complex hierarchy of gems, and their roles were assigned based on what kind they were. Any and all gems who did not fit into a “perfectly” organized system were either corrupted, destroyed, or fled into hiding.
- But the bulk of “Change Your Mind” focuses on how this system impacted the four Diamonds, and I get why that is. I am hoping season 6 deals with the fallout and the ramifications of all this, because if there’s anything here to nitpick, it’s that the redemption arc for the Diamonds is a little too clean.
- More on that in a second. I’M JUMPING AROUND, I KNOW, THERE’S JUST SO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT.
- Oh god, the confrontation between Yellow and Blue. Look, Diamonds fighting is just terrifying, isn’t it? And the show manages to convey the sheer horrible size of the fight, and I mean that both literally and metaphorically. And it is hard to imagine a time when all four of them get along and were ever happy! That’s the point! So when Blue refuses to give up Steven, it was a pivotal moment in this arc. Blue was finally starting to rebel against this system, and Yellow was not ready to.
- Yellow realizing that Blue wasn’t making her cry… just. Why are you doing this to me.
- Because once their minds are changed, it’s like a goddamn avalanche. One decision leads to another, and then Yellow and Blue are both trying to help the Crystal Gems escape, and even in hindsight, this is still surreal. Which is why I hope further stories dig in deeper to this stuff, if only because all this happened so FAST.
- Another reason I enjoyed this as much as I did: the writers found a way to have pretty much every important character play a part in this final battle. I’m glad that Bismuth, Peridot, and Lapis Lazuli were here, that they mattered, and that they participated in the fight to free Earth and save the corrupted gems. REMEMBER WHEN THEY DIDN’T EVER WANT TO SEE THE DIAMONDS AGAIN.
- I am also certain that the people behind this show know that approximately EVERY ONE OF US loves to see fusions, because this was like the most incredible gift to the fans. We got to see Steven fuse with all of the Crystal Gems. It had been a while since Smoky Quartz had made an appearance, and their fusion was a burst of joy in a scene that was so goddamn tense as it was. Then we were given another gift: PEARL AND STEVEN BECOME RAINBOW QUARTZ. They were giving us some serious Mary Poppins vibes!!! And it makes total sense that Rainbow Quartz would be both dignified and wacky. I LOVE IT.
- But I’m just gonna say that fuckin’ SUNSTONE was my favorite. Oh my god, they’re like a beach party ball of fire??? This was everything I could ever ask for?
- Actually, I don’t know if I can ever deal with Obsidian. I mentioned something like this on video, but I love that all the Crystal Gems fusing turns them into this horrifying thing??? WHAT A POWER MOVE. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t these characters turn into the largest, most awe-inspiring fusion ever?
- I just can’t get enough of this. Honestly, if my emotions can handle it, I really want to re-watch this episode so I can pay attention to new things. OBSIDIAN FORGED A SWORD OUT OF THEIR MOUTH, Y’ALL. What else did I miss?
- I also love that the secondary characters all contributed to the battle as well. LOOK HOW GREAT CONNIE WAS WITH THE SWORD THAT BISMUTH MADE HER.
- And then they all get inside White Diamond’s ship, and this episode takes a TURN, and it is a LOT, and I am STILL UPSET.
- As I mentioned before, the concept of perfection is something we’ve seen addressed multiple times over the course of Steven Universe, and it felt necessary that so much of this finale was dedicated to dismantling it. White Diamond’s behavior is finally explained in this episode, and it gives the audience context for this struggle we’ve not had before. White Diamond isn’t just obsessed with perfection; she believed she was perfect, that since she is a combination of all colors in the spectrum, everyone else must be lesser than her. But the truth is much more damning and insidious. White Diamond’s life is a performance. She performs perfection, but she’s certainly not perfect herself. She hasn’t ever considered that, though, and that makes changing her mind so difficult and upsetting. Instead of actually listening to everyone, she views them as imperfect threats, and she drains them all of color in order to get them to act as she wants them to.
- Yeah, it’s really, really disturbing, especially as we watch Steven become more frantic because his words aren’t working.
- Instead, White Diamond’s start working. Steven isn’t himself; he’s always just been a form of Pink. Pink only wanted to be the best of the worst, to be in control of and have power over others. That doesn’t sound anything like the Steven I’ve come to know, but it starts getting to him!
- So the story loops right back around to identity: Who is Steven Universe? Is he Rose Quartz’s son, or is he a lie? Is he nothing more than the manifestation of a childish rebellion?
- I admit that not in a million years did I ever think that Steven could be separated from his gem. Didn’t cross my mind at all. So when White began to separate the two, I WAS DISTRAUGHT. Wouldn’t that kill him? Because as much as I believed that Steven was his own person, that gem was still a part of him!
- I am so in love with the animation for the entire gem separation sequence. It manages to start from a place of horror, then drops us into something surreal as we see things from the perspective of Steven’s gem. And that’s really what it is: THE GEM IS STEVEN’S. It may have come from his mother, but, as Steven’s gem states unequivocally, she’s gone.
- It’s the definitive answer to this show’s entire narrative. Steven is his own person. He is not his mother.
- I’M CRYING AGAIN.
- Because not a single power in the world, not even every gem in that room turning on Steven, could stop him from returning to his own gem. NOTHING.
- I was mesmerized and will remain mesmerized with the sequence of Steven hugging his gem, laughing and crying, spinning around as he affirms himself and who he is. It’s technically beautiful, and it is one of the most beautiful things this show has ever done.
- SHE IS GONE.
- STEVEN IS HIS OWN PERSON.
- HELP ME.
- There is nothing wrong with being flawed. Difficult. Sad. Rebellious. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. There’s nothing wrong with being different. That’s the message this show sent out. White Diamond is flawed, and perfection is impossible.
- You just have to step outside of your own head once in a while.
- And thus, White Diamond does just that: she leaves Homeworld to go to Earth, where, with a perpetually shocked look on her face, she experiences the new home that Pink sought out all those years ago.
- It is beautifully chaotic. There’s no easy introduction here, and this experience is going to be immensely uncomfortable, but White Diamond—and all the Diamonds, for that matter—must do this. She must be brutally uncomfortable over and over again if she is ever going to change. Truly change, that is! So I love that she’s basically plopped in the middle of a rock show. (And bravo on that ska version of the song that Sadie Killer and The Suspects sing; it’s wild to see ska on a fairly mainstream show. IN 2019. Like, that shit happened a lot over twenty years ago.
- LARS AND LION FINALLY MEET.
- LARS AND SADIE FINALLY REUNITE They’ve both changed so much in the interim, and I cannot wait to see them together again.
- Look, the video is proof that I was already very emotional, and this episode had destroyed me about ten times, but the scene in Rose’s Fountain was the culmination of YEARS of story building. Steven had done it. He had changed the minds of the Diamonds, and together with the Crystal Gems, all the corrupted gems were unbubbled and healed. ALL OF THEM. It was like a greatest hits of the show, y’all, and I couldn’t even remember every single episode that those gems first appeared in.
- I admit it was a little weird to see White Diamond in this scene, but I also understood why it happened. She needed to see this and participate, but I kinda wondered why the corrupted gems weren’t messed up by seeing the Diamonds with them? The only one who has a really negative reaction is Jasper, and she goes after Steven, not the Diamonds.
- Still, I can’t deny the power of the scene, and I want to see what else the show does with Homeworld and the Diamonds. (Seriously, how is there another season???)
- THE FINAL SONG.
- THAT MESSAGE.
- If this was the series finale, I’d still be happy. I love that the theme repeats again, but it’s “Change Your Mind” that has ruined me the most.
- Because at the end of the day, I respect myself. I love myself. I’m queer, and that’s who I am. And Steven’s invitation to “change your mind” is so pure, much like his character. It strikes at the heart of why this episode is so meaningful to me, and I imagine it was meaningful to a lot of you, too. The world is so much more complicated than some people would like to admit, but that complication doesn’t make me feel terrible. It makes me feel alive. It makes me marvel at the joy of being human. I want to make deep, meaningful connections with other people, and that does require love and respect.
- If only we offered that more to others, maybe we’d “know” one another better.
- My god, what an episode.
The video for “Change Your Mind” can be downloaded here for $1.99.
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