(Warning: Major Spoilers)
Once again, we’re back to Steven Universe. Luckily for all of you, this is the last time you’ll have to hear me talk about it. At least until the movie comes out. And the sixth season. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves,
The “Battle of Heart and Mind” special, officially titled “Change Your Mind” is 44-minute long special and the Season 5 finale. I haven’t been reviewing all the episodes of the past Steven Bomb, but I’m going to make the assumption that if you’re reading this, you know what’s going on.
It wasn’t my plan to write about this episode. I was going to ignore it, but I couldn’t. There are far too many implications for the series.
In every sense of the matter; “Change Your Mind” was a grandiose series finale, except for the fact that it isn’t one. Most of the major plot threads are solved, White Diamond is defeated, Lapis and Peridot officially join the Gems, the corrupted Gems are healed…just to name a few.
I can’t imagine why they need another season and a movie. Like where can they possibly go from here? And they’re going to spread the twenty episodes over like a year and a half. It’s going to be painful.
The Crew is pretty obsessed with anime, so maybe they’ll pull off a Naruto: Shippuden deal with all the characters aged up a bunch. Or even Boruto it, and have a spin off with Steven and Connie’s weird quarter-gem child. (But I doubt it.)
I mean there are some plot threads that I would absolutely love to see resolved: gem harvesting, the Zoomans, how the Off Colors and uncorrupted gems adjust life on Earth, what life is like for Lars, more information about Pink Pearl, what happened to Homeworld after Steven leaves. But. I don’t know if we need that many episodes to do it.
And it won’t be as satisfying since it’ll be rushed.
As for the episode itself, it’s pretty solid for a Steven Universe episode, with the usual criticisms about pacing. Certain things happen to fast, and a lot of things are resolved but it’s very underwhelming and not satisfying.
I guess even though I know this is a show about forgiveness, which isn’t something I mind at all, I wish there was more to the Diamonds’ redemption arc. They get like half a minute of realization each, and just decide to help Steven. And the Crystal Gems don’t even seem to have a problem with it,
Like, White’s Heel-Face turn basically becomes good out of nowhere.
There’s no build up to it.
It’s just suddenly, Steven basically saying, “You’re a bazillion years old. Why are you throwing a temper tantrum?” Then White realizes she’s being silly and just turns good. More or less.
It’s not satisfying.
Redemption arcs are great to have in shows. When they’re done well. Peridot’s redemption arc was better because we still saw her struggling afterwards, and she earned it. We saw how she grew. And she wasn’t genuinely despicable. Just a lovable nuisance.
The Diamonds, at least Yellow and Blue, I understand their emotions and actions, but the show never addresses the fact that they’ve destroyed countless worlds. It’s glossed over despite that being what made them so genuinely awful in the first place.
The show is okay with glossing over the fact that these are dictators who have taken over countless solar systems, but it doesn’t bother giving redeeming qualities to run-of-the-mill douchbags like Kevin and Marty. They’re pretty much irredeemable in the eyes of the show.
Like they’re shitty people, of course, and Sugar makes sure we know that they’re behavior is unacceptable. But, the Diamonds can just say “sorry” and make everything okay?
I guess I should have listened to Rebecca Sugar when she said the series wouldn’t have any real villains. But, here’s the thing: If Sugar wanted to tackle subjects like emotionally abusive families and codependent relationships, she needs to be willing to put in the time and effort to address them.
It’s obvious that she wants people to recognize that these behaviors aren’t okay but it’s clear she either doesn’t know how to do it within the context and attitude of the show. It’s hard to find the balance between talking out your issues and solving issues through the power of love and acknowledging that there are some people who are beyond forgiveness.
I have no issue with presenting a morally gray view, where abusers can be shown to have reasons for their actions and to be shown to be sympathetic. That can be fascinating. It’s just done….poorly.
Steven Universe being a kids’ show isn’t an excuse.
It’s fine to show somebody being made better through the power of love or recognizing their mistakes. We need that kind of attitude. We need to allow people to become better, and we need to be willing to give them that chance. And the show is great for portraying that kind of attitude.
I just can’t quite put my finger on what bothers me about it.
I think my issue is that everybody keeps talking about the show as though it presents some kind of moral complexity when…it really doesn’t.
The show’s main theme is that a good, loving attitude can fix anything (and that’s literally how the day is saved. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Just not my cup of tea.
And this is where the show really shows its biggest flaws: all the townie episodes are kind of waste. Some of them are fun, but none of the Beach City citizens came into play here. And those episodes came at the expense of the growth of the antagonists.
We could have gotten rid of all the Ronaldo episodes or gotten rid of the character completely, and just put the effort undertaken into those episodes and made a bunch of Diamond episodes, leading up to their redemption.
The show would be so much better for it.
Ronaldo is such a pointless character, yet we spend so much time with him. The Diamonds are so important, but we barely get to know them. I don’t get it.
I’ve still barely touched the plot here. But really, it’s not important. It truly isn’t. All you need to know is that this is the episode where White Diamond gets redeemed. And you need to know the two truly great parts of the episode.
The first is about midway through after Steven rescues the bubbled Crystal Gems. They won’t reform, and Steven brings each of them out by fusing with each one. We see Smoky Quartz again, then we see Steven fuse with Pearl for Rainbow Quartz 2.0, who is a surprisingly masculine gem (who rides a parasol like a witch rides a broom) and then we get meet Sunstone, Steven’s fusion with Garnet.
Sunstone has a slight New York accent and speaks like they’re the protagonist of a 90s kids TV PSA. I was a little disappointed.
But, the best fusion is Obsidian who is made of all Crystal Gems. They’re gigantic and beautiful. Obsidian is basically a giant gem with lava running through their veins who use her magma to forge a sword.
It’s not what I expected from the Temple Gem, but I am very pleased with the result. And I love all the Gems’ new outfits, especially Pearl’s pants and jacket combo.
The second notable part is inside the Diamond mech; White Diamond has placed Yellow, Blue and the Crystal Gems under her mind control. The entire scene is black and white except for Steven and Connie, then she literally YANKS out Steven’s gem, forcing him into two parts.
And we find out that Steven’s human half cannot really survive without the gem and that Steven’s gem half, Pink Steven is crazily powerful and has no restraint. White Diamond can’t even touch him with her powers.
And then the two Stevens…fuse. That’s the best word for it. They dance and laugh and cry. It’s an absolutely beautiful scene.
It was animated by James Baxter, who is known for working on animation like The Prince of Egypt, Beauty and the Beast, Regular Show and Kung Fu Panda. And his talent shines.
You could feel the Stevens’ relief, as they found each other and begin to dance. Pink Steven takes Human Steven’s hands, and puts Human Steven’s feet on his, so they can twirl and giggle and become one. I loved that little detail.
Still, I haven’t quite figured out where I stood on this episode and honestly, it’s been bugging me all week.
I honestly think this episode threw me for such a loop it messed with my mind for the rest of the week. Cause out of everything I predicted, I didn’t expect a pseudo-finale. I know the show couldn’t last much longer, but I wasn’t expecting anything that quickly.
They actually could have spread this episode out. This was the kind of stuff that should be drawn out and focused on a bit more.
Steven Universe is shitty with pacing. And this time this has nothing to do with the bombs. It just kind of proves the crew sucks at it.
I’m just frustrated.
I am so glad, so fucking relieved that I literally don’t have to deal with this show again until the movie. Let’s just end the damn show here and welcome all the new shows Cartoon Network will be airing this year, because there are a lot.
The ones I’m most interested in? Owl House, Amphibia and of course, Infinity Train.
And that’s the scoop.
Year of Release: 2019
Creator: Rebecca Sugar
Produced: Jackie Buscarino
Episode Directors: Joe Johnston (supervising), Kat Morris (supervising), Liz Artinian (art)