(Warning: Spoilers for the latest episodes of Steven Universe)
Steven Universe returned with two new episodes on Monday, April 7th after a short hiatus. The episodes “Can’t Go Back” and “A Single Pale Rose” revealed the biggest plot twist in the show’s history since Garnet was revealed to be a fusion back in the first season.
This twist has heavily divided fans, myself included. It’s not hard to see why considering, how it changes everything we know regarding the Crystal Gems. I’m still not sure how I feel about it.
If you still don’t know what I’m talking about but you’re willing to spoil the twist for yourself, here it is: Rose Quartz was Pink Diamond, and Pearl “shattered” her. A double whammy. In other words, Pink Diamond’s death was faked. Pearl disguised herself as Rose Quartz and used Rose’s sword to poof “Rose” while making everyone else believe she was dead.
While there were theories positing that Rose Quartz and Pink Diamond were the same person, and others that Pearl was responsible for shattering Pink (as well as being “her” Pearl), none of them had combined the two ideas.
It was somewhat unexpected and kind of clever. I liked it.
But my issue with is with the “Rose Quartz is Pink Diamond” idea in general. I’ve never been a huge fan of it. The theory had seemingly been disproved in the series several times making the twist very frustrating. Why spend all that time trying to convince us the two were separate people? Why has the show gone through so many different “reveals” regarding Pink Diamond’s demise?
The last reveal came during the events of “The Trial,” an episode aired earlier this season. It implied that Blue or Yellow Diamond were responsible for Pink Diamond’s death. While it did imply that Pearl could have also been responsible, now it just feels like a lazy way of distracting the audience so that they could squeeze more episodes.
I think the show would have done better to reveal the twist earlier; it’s been five seasons and we’re only now getting into the lore of the show. The reveal isn’t really satisfying considering the other possibilities were dangled in front of our faces.
The reveal also doesn’t comply with the rules already established in-universe, particularly when it comes to shapeshifting. The fact the her gem is in different positions depending on what forms she takes, and the size difference between Pink and Rose doesn’t make much sense. Especially when we know long-term shapeshifting can harm gems.
Rose did not just change her size or shape: she changed pretty much everything about her appearance including her eyes. That must take an enormous amount of energy, and there had to be times when she couldn’t keep her form.
I suppose, by virtue of being a Diamond, her shapeshifting abilities could be stronger than the average gem. But nothing of that sort has been previously established, so it’s hard to know for sure. Admittedly, Rose Quartz being a Diamond explains a lot about Rose’s special powers like healing and floating that normal gems didn’t have.
But it makes me wonder how nobody recognized Steven’s gem as a Diamond, particularly the Homeworld scanners.
However, I’m interested in the fallout of this event. The fact that only Pearl knew the truth is huge and could change her relationship with the other gems.
This twist could change everything about the Crystal Gems’ relationships to each other.
And I believe the twist does explain one of the bigger controversies in the fandom: Bismuth. Right now, I believe that Bismuth somehow found out about Rose Quartz’s identity as Pink Diamond and attempted to shatter her out of anger. Rose managed to bubble her and lied to the Crystal Gems to protect herself.
But, there’s still something about the twist that I’m still not happy about. I’m not entirely sure what it is. I don’t think this twist makes the most sense narratively nor is it the most interesting option.
Rose Quartz being an average gem rebelling against an unfair system would have made her story more compelling, because she wasn’t powerful. Or Pink Diamond being shattered by her “sisters” because of her rebellious nature, with Rose fighting to avenge her, would have been very interesting .
But then again, Steven Universe isn’t a show that strives for narrative complexity. That isn’t a bad thing, in and of itself. The show is for children, and it’s about accepting others and learning that everyone has some good inside of them. It strives to be a subversive show but that desire sometimes gets in the way of good storytelling.
But other than the major plot revelations, the episodes were pretty good. In “Can’t Go Back,” Lazuli sings for the first time and her song “That Distant Shore” is beautifully melancholic. Sadie’s songs are always great, but Steven Universe does particularly well when the songs have to be emotional.
“A Single Pale Rose,” is great in how depicts Pearl’s subconscious and how much she’s had to keep herself emotionally repressed. Pearl is probably one of the most complex and well-developed characters in the series, something this episode only reinforces.
The only thing that disappointed me is that her loyalty to Rose Quartz comes from Rose being her owner, not due to pure love. It’s part of her programming. Is she still a renegade Pearl even though her rebellions likely took place at the orders of her owner?
Hopefully this is acknowledged in some way in a future episode. True, Rose Quartz clearly stated her last order to Pearl as her owner was to never speak of the events of that day again, but I still wonder what their relationship was really like.
Steven Universe has been one of the shows that for me I got really into for a while but it hasn’t wowed me in a long time but now I’m willing to give it one more shot. If it ignores these revelations or retcons it, yet again…Consider me done.
And that’s the scoop
Score: “Can’t Go Back:” 7/10
“A Single Pale Rose:” 9/10
(I also apologize for quality of the GIFs I wanted them bigger and it made them grainy)