Steven Universe Recap: That Will Be All
Except it won't! Because we're getting weekly episodes again!
The Recap: Steven and Greg reunite with the Gems and escape from the zoo, but not before accidentally eavesdropping on a conversation between Yellow and Blue Diamond, who debate whether it’s better to preserve Pink’s memory or move on by wiping out the Gems that shattered her and the planet she colonized.
Alright, I take back what I said on Tuesday–that was a GREAT payoff for Amethyst. It’s nice to see her fears somewhat put to rest in regards to being a “failure” as a quartz. The warm fellow feeling among the quartzes gives us a glimpse of how pockets of difference, if not active resistance, might already exist across the no-longer-monolithic Homeworld. It does raise the question of whether Gem personalities are in some way encoded into their cut and assignment and how much is upbringing.
Pearl, Ruby, and Sapphire were all raised to behave in lockstep with others of the type, but Amethyst turning out to share utterly compatible mindsets when she’s only ever met one other quartz seems to put up at the forefront the idea of nature (but then AGAIN, Amethyst clearly admired Rose deeply, and might well have modeled herself after those joking/teasing aspects of her personality); as well as the similarity of weapon-manifesting among types, which seems to have trends (Holly and Amethyst both use whips, so do several of the zoo’s amethysts) but isn’t universally set (Jasper has a helmet), and… I’m going to get out of this hole I’ve dug before I bury myself.
It’s not entirely non-germane to the conversation, though. The major set piece of the episode, Yellow Diamond’s “What’s the Use of Feeling Blue,” is largely about roles and purposes, and sung in response to the unanswered issue of the bubbled rose quartzes left in stasis after Pink Diamond’s death. So, why all the rose quartzes, then? Were they in fact made specifically to tend the zoo, thus explaining Rose’s healing abilities and defensive powers? And if that’s true, then what do we make of her decision to rise up and shatter Pink Diamond? Was her decision to protect Earth an outgrowth of the traits she was built to have, something any rose quartz would’ve done had they spent protracted time on Earth?
Choice is clearly important to Rose, and we know from Pearl that it’s possible for Gems to change their role (though there’s still the implication that she can’t change her weapon, which is why she collects human-made swords instead). The question of heredity has come up before, too, with the confrontation between Steven and Eyeball and the larger question of how much he is or (increasingly) isn’t Rose. If I had to throw my hat into the ring at this point, I’d say we’ve come to a point where there are certain inevitabilities of birth–in less metaphorical terms, race and ethnicity, birthplace, and social status–that one can’t control, and inevitably impact worldview and traits. But it also posits that that’s not the end of the story, and that growth comes in the form of understanding people who are different, who are oppressed, who have an experience of the world you never considered (once, you know, they stop attempting to disenfranchise or murder you).
These are big questions that the show continues to grapple with, often very expertly, and they’re only really brushed here; it’s to the show’s credit that it’s played on so many facets of that theme that it has such a considerable ripple effect back throughout the story at large.
Meanwhile, Patti LuPone singing. All of the superlatives in my box go here. The double meaning of the title isn’t hard to figure out even before hearing the song itself (instant subtext, just add comma!), but LuPone goes above and beyond in selling what’s probably the most initially offputting song thus far on the soundtrack. It’s one of the only songs set in a minor key (possibly the first, unless my memory is failing me) and certainly the most aggressively discordant, with the use of the Pearls as an octave-higher backing setting one even more on edge. It’s not warm and rousing in the vein of “Stronger Than You,” or even raw and belting like “It’s Over Isn’t It.” LuPone’s voice soars and then hits high notes that are sharp edged and punching rather than cathartic, and the refrain doesn’t properly finish, breaking off instead into a hum of the Diamond Authority leitmotif.
But absolutely none of that describes what a compelling piece it is, yielding layers the more one picks at it. LuPone’s voice has an implacable gravitas about it, and true tenderness fights its way out in the seconds when Yellow commiserates with Blue over their shared grief (at which point the music warms accordingly, a reprieve before that almost-shriek of a final high note). And as for the content… in at least one sense, Yellow’s not wrong. It seems as if Blue isn’t doing her job as a leader, and maybe hasn’t been for the thousands of years since Pink died. We don’t know what the effects of Blue’s absenteeism are, but it’s not hard to see her neglecting her own people for good and ill in pursuit of her grief.
While the word “feeling” might be in the song title, the truth is that Blue’s not feeling, really. Her grief and sadness have clearly reached a point where they’ve numbed her and stopped her from moving entirely. She hasn’t shattered the rose quartzes, but she hasn’t set them free either. She’s in stasis, protected from feeling by her grief (in fact, in watching her I’m reminded of Louis de Pointe du Lac–who’s still, for my money, one of the most effective depictions of debilitating depression in literature).
Both Yellow and Blue are opposite extremes, and both have been paralyzed by this grief for thousands of years. The difference for now, as far as our main cast is concerned, is that Yellow’s coping method is destructive while Blue’s is basically inert. Stopping that remains concern number one for the time being, but there’s no doubt the show will be opening the issue further than that, examining not just the many ways in which we deal with loss but, finally, how we can move on from it. The most evocative shot in the episode is the door closing as Steven continues to observe the two Diamonds in their most human moment to date.
And… that’s the Bomb! There’s still the getaway, of course, as Pearl gets a chance to deliver the speech she’s been holding in all day and the Famethyst steps up to help out (bonus nice touch: the fact that they’re all happy to laugh at Holly’s comeuppance but don’t seem intent on poofing or even overthrowing her – seems she’s part of the family too). And we head back to Earth, doubtlessly to take a breather from all of this before the next big flurry of revelations.
I don’t think it counts as a spoiler, given that it was pretty heavily foreshadowed and the episode title’s been released, that the next episode will be checking in with the second stringers who were left on Earth doing all this. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the return of a weekly schedule (though how long that will last is, as always, anyone’s guess). I can’t wait to see you there and, as always, take care.
Vrai Kaiser is a queer author and pop culture blogger; their life is Diamond feels now, apparently. 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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