The Recap: Steven visits Rose’s room to try and work out his feelings about his mom.
This is another episode that’s in some ways a foregone conclusion: we needed to have an episode where Steven came to terms with the resentment he’s been feeling over the last season, and the one location that was made to be a repository for Rose’s thoughts and desires is the ideal place to stage that struggle. What’s more unexpected is how much those feelings are intertwined with the sense of loss and alienation Steven’s been battling since the very first season.
The use of Rose here is exceptionally deft. It isn’t just about the fact that Steven is living out what I’d deem a pretty universal fantasy for anyone who lost a close family member they never really got to know, though that drives the episode’s conflict; but, rather it’s also the way she’s written and shot. Other episodes have used the placement of Rose’s photo to imply that she’s not just watching but looming over them, an untouchable idol that they’re all measuring themselves against and failing. Howard and Liu’s boards go one step beyond here, using multiple cuts during Steven’s monologue about Rose to ensure they never share a frame until he decides to enter the room – creating the sense of attempting to breach separate worlds.
Once “Rose” actually appears, the script wastes no time in playing off the rules established in “Open Book” with the fake Connie. Just like in that episode, the majority of Rose’s dialogue is a restatement of Steven’s question or other attempt to reflect the issue back to him. Even her sports monologue is cribbed almost beat for beat from the tape she left for Steven, so closely and over the top as to be sad and knowing parody. The episode bares its hollowness, yet still invites us to engage with it.
Because even though this is another chance to hear Susan Egan’s low, comforting performance, this episode was never about getting answers about Rose. It’s about how Steven feels about her. It’s about closure, which he has a rare chance for thanks to his powers – the first time in a while that they’ve been a benefit instead of a burden. If those interactions feel stereotypical and slightly hollow, it’s because they’re meant to, and the contrast with how much genuine joy Steven gets from it is both heartbreaking and almost impossible to begrudge. There’s no sense that Steven’s in any danger of losing touch with reality, which would’ve been the easy card to play with this kind of plotline.
It’s never more than temporary, and we’re never allowed to forget that, from that hollow dialogue to the unusual washed out look of the copy-Rose. The episode’s animation homage to Peanuts isn’t just cute, it’s accurate. Steven definitely falls into a tonal line with Schultz’s cast of melancholy children pondering the philosophical in the everyday; particularly in the poignant opening scene about Connie’s anxiety, which is a great lowkey precursor about resentment and love (Connie’s mother is overprotective, but Connie panics when she’s not there).
The titular storm evokes the image of Rose that’s been lurking since the Crewniverse released the extended show opening, with eyes hidden in classical anime coding for untrustworthiness. Because the thrust of the narrative is on Steven’s feelings, we don’t quite get a satisfying answer about Rose the mastermind, or Rose the general, which I hope we’ll be able to explore with the other Gems in future. Even Steven’s conclusion is based on what he hopes to be true based on the one preserved message from her he has.
Which brings us back to this being another mechanically necessary episode. Steven has to be willing to let go of his need to have immediate answers, or possibly to ever get concrete answers, about who Rose was as a complex and fallible being. While it might be frustrating on the level of wanting, as viewers, to hear Rose speak for herself, it’s true to a narrative about grief. You can only pick up so many pieces after the fact, and there will always be things that can’t be answered. It just happens that in Steven’s case, those things are on a universal scale and have resulted in space beings frequently attempting to murder him.
Even if Rose’s intentions were good, and she didn’t want to leave these problems to Steven (which is probably mostly true), that doesn’t magically wish away the consequences. What it does do is keep Steven from charging ahead as recklessly as he did during the last Bomb, an untenable narrative pace that would change how the show works on a fundamental level and, realistically, probably get our protagonist (if not the whole cast) killed. Steven finding a modicum of peace is a great character step…and it means we can carry on waiting a while before there are any more dramatic plot occurrences.
The next two episodes (which are the last with released titles and air dates at time of writing, so…brace yourselves, is all I’m saying) are another customary turn back toward Beach City shenanigans. And heck, the year’s been such a dumpster fire thus far that I’m going to go ahead and hope that this next Ronaldo episode will finally be the time when he gets an arc or a whole second character beat, just for a change of pace. Hope to see you there!
Vrai Kaiser is a queer author and pop culture blogger; carrying on for spite has proven to be a very viable strategy thus far. You can read more essays and find out about their fiction at Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories, listen to them podcasting on Soundcloud, support their work via Patreon or PayPal, or remind them of the existence of Tweets.
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