In the sixteenth episode of Steven Universe Future, THIS ONE ALSO HURT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of trauma, PTSD
I know that I always have therapy on the brain, but I feel like interpreting this show through that lens isn’t all that flawed of an approach, since this story seems very much to be about mental health. So, by the end of “Fragments,” I had an idea about what the purpose of this episode was:
Jasper was still hurt and had not healed from it, and she could never give Steven the healing he needs either.
But I don’t want to discount what Jasper says to him in this episode, because I think there are things she says that will be important for Steven’s understanding of himself. Let’s back up, though, because I want to address how the Crystal Gems unknowingly pushed Steven to the point where he had to flee his home. In a way, it’s related to Greg’s response to Steven’s crisis. All three of them meant well and clearly care about him, but they’re not actually listening to Steven. Instead, they’re centering other people or themselves in their responses to him, which is what Jasper later points out.
Look at that scene again. Pearl insists that Steven HAS to deal with this; Amethyst also pressures Steven to address things immediately; Garnet at one point says that Steven is “better than this,” which makes it seem like what he’s going through isn’t even a part of them. Each of them have an intent that is caring, but they all land in painful, exacerbating ways, so much so that Steven nearly freaks out again. It’s unfair to him to have all that pressure placed upon him, especially when his family frames it in a way that causes him additional harm.
So I love that this loops back around to “Little Homeschool,” the episode that not only started this journey, but showed us that Steven was dealing with something new. From a structure standpoint, it’s brilliant! I remember thinking that maybe Jasper was going to guide Steven on this journey, but now I can see how the writers made it so that Steven would seek out solutions elsewhere before coming back to Jasper. At this point in his journey, he was much more amenable to Jasper’s “lessons” than he would have been if he’d tried this in that first episode.
As Jasper says quite literally later in “Fragments,” there’s no coddling here. On some level, I think that’s what Steven wanted, especially after “Mr. Universe.” He wanted the brutal truth, because maybe that brutal truth would give him some direction. That’s what I saw here! I saw an extremely well-defined structure give to Steven. Jasper believed in channeling anger, and that’s not actually a bad idea! What was so compelling about this episode to me was that out of context, much of what Jasper said to Steven felt true! Steven was afraid of his power; his friends were afraid of his power; why hadn’t anyone encouraged him to use it rather than suppress or get rid of it? That’s an interesting theory! Even I had approached this problem as something Steven needed to “solve” rather than adapt to. I mean, I get why, especially after Dr. Maheswaran’s theory about Steven and PTSD.
But what if the solution is to lean into his powers?
So Steven tries to. He tries to go against his natural instincts of conflict resolution, peace, and healing, and he engages Jasper directly, physically, and destructively. It’s not easy for him to do that! It takes her being INCREDIBLY violent with Steven for him to finally show off a shred of the power he demonstrated in “Little Homeschool.” (I also admit I started cringing a lot because Steven might be durable, but he’s still human. I couldn’t stop thinking of the x-rays he saw. HIS POOR SKELETON.) From there, the drills only got more intense as Steven also began to transform physically. But what did that transformation mean? He got bigger. He looked older. But did his power change?
I’d argue that it didn’t. Rather, I saw Steven letting go of his inhibitions. I saw him refusing to hold back. As he did so, his hex shields got stronger. His speed increased. His destructive capacity increased by untold numbers. All of this is what Jasper understands, though. She knows how to channel rage. She knows how to destroy things. She’s never known anything else! She grew up under that violent hierarchy on Homeworld, and she can’t even imagine another solution to her problems. Well, does she even see them as problems? Maybe in the sense that she no longer has someone to serve, WHICH IS WHERE THIS EPISODE ENDS UP EVENTUALLY ANYWAY.
So yes, I see the structure of this episode in the episode run AND the script itself as being very, very intentional. Jasper understands power and how it is used to administer violence. Thus, when she goads on Steven to a point where he ACTUALLY shatters her gem, this isn’t the horrifying thing it is for Steven. No, it suddenly gives her life the direction and purpose she was looking for. Not for Steven, though, and now he’s even further away from what he needs. Oh my god, that scene in the bathroom… I’M LOSING IT. After everything, Steven goes right back to who he’s been: someone who heals. Granted, it’s an emotional scene for other reasons, but I also can’t ignore that this essentially confirms that the Diamonds could have healed all the shattered gems??? Oh my god???? Yes, they may have looked different afterward (I think I saw little subtle changes in Jasper’s color scheme), but they could be healed.
Isn’t this whole epilogue show about healing? THIS ISN’T LOST ON ME. But the tragic irony is that in healing Jasper, she’s now ready to serve Steven as his Diamond.
YEAH, NO. THIS IS THE LAST THING HE WANTS??? Oh my god, what the FUCK is going to happen now??? There are only four episodes left? I hurt?!?!?!?!?!
The video for “Fragments” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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