This is without a doubt the best thing to come of the direct-to-video fad.
Steven: Hey Sadie, there’s a snack named after you?
Sadie: Nah. Those are all the lunches my mom packed for me.
Steven: Aw, that’s so nice!
Sadie: Eh, actually, it’s pretty embarrassing. She’s been doing it for years. I mean, I know how to feed myself! They just make me feel like a kid, y’know?
Steven: Can I try one?
This episode walks that tightrope of comedy, cuteness, and sentiment with the greatest of ease. Also there are tons of great images.
Including several of Lion acting like the giant kitty that he is.
Steven: I wonder what kind of lunch my mom would’ve made me. Maybe actual space cookies! I just wish I knew a little more about her.
It’s at this point that Lion starts acting very “clingy” towards Steven…
Pearl: Lion! Let him go!
Steven: What happened?
Pearl: Steven are you alright? Why was Lion sleeping on top of you?
I’m reminded of a dog I know who’s a pretty big mutt, but grew up in a house of small dogs, so he’s constantly trying to sit on your lap.
Steven: Wait…why are you here, Pearl?
Pearl: Me? Nothing! I was just, uh, well, you know how I always say, um, I just, uh…I like to watch you sleep sometimes. And by “sometimes” I mean “often”.
Steven: Okie dokie, it’s time for everyone to leave Steven alone, I’m a growing boy and I need some rest.
I love how this show immediately gets what Twilight never figured out: Watching someone sleep (especially without their permission) is just kinda creepy no matter the circumstances.
When Steven finally manages to drift off, the writers just up and drop their artistic statement in the ensuing dream sequence, for which I must applaud them.
Dogcopter: Don’t focus so much on talent, Steven. Making art is all about communication. A piece of art is a conversation. Every choice you make is a statement. Don’t worry about labels, or conforming to a standard. Just be true to yourself, and people will appreciate your honesty.
I don’t doubt that part of the reason I love this show is because I totally agree with that artistic ideal, and I’m fascinated by artistic “conversations”. Part of interpreting artistic statements is language, of course, but just as important (especially in a visual medium) are the other stories you reference as shorthand. But we’re not there just yet…
Steven: I don’t know what this place is, but it feels…familiar.
Steven: Lion! My face is not your bed! What’s going on with you? You just wanted a belly rub? You never let me touch your belly…it’s a trap! An adorable trap!
THIS IS EVERY CAT EVER. THE BELLY RUB IS A TRAP.
Then Steven puts him outside after Lion digs his claws into him, and Lion starts mewing pitifully.
IT’S A TRAP!
But of course there’s more to it than plain old cat shenanigans – Lion’s been trying to show him something.
“Lion 2” implied that he was somehow connected to Rose, and this episode all but confirms it. That sword Steven pulled out wasn’t a fluke.
Steven: Am I supposed to do something here?…For me? Who would put this here? And how does this huge place fit inside of Lion’s mane, anyway?
Any self-respecting Whovian could answer that last question: It’s obviously an extra-dimensional space!
And now we get to the obvious inspiration behind this episode, “Speak Like a Child” from Cowboy Bebop (which is also, coincidentally, the episode Junichi Sato worked on). That one revolves around a Betamax tape (and finding something to play it on takes up most of the episode), but fortunately, Steven knows exactly where to find a VHS player: In the back room of the Big Donut.
It appears to be some sort of home video…
Greg: They call me, Mr Universe! Get ready, baby! You’re gonna have the coolest dad this side of the cosmos! Press the button, Rose!
Rose: Oh, right! Was that the right one?
Greg: Uh, maybe.
There’s just something about the way those two interact, the very mundane nature of it, that makes Rose feel both closer and farther away than she ever has before, and it makes me cry.
Rose: Isn’t it remarkable, Steven? This world is full of so many possibilities. Each living thing has an entirely unique experience. The sights they see, the sounds they hear, the lives they live, are so complicated, and so simple! I can’t wait for you to join them. Steven, we can’t both exist. I’m going to become half of you. And I need you to know that every moment you love yourself, that’s me, loving you, and loving being you, because you’re going to be something extraordinary: You’re going to be a human being. Take care of them, Steven.
In “Speak Like a Child”, the tape turns out to contain a message from Faye’s forgotten past self. Here, it’s similarly like a message from a life Steven never had – one where his parents were happily living together.
This is why I love animation. Greg and Rose’s feelings for each other are palpable without ever needing to spell it out.
Also, this is as good a time as any to mention that Rose is my favorite character in the show (except possibly for Steven himself, but I’m sure she’d be with me on that one).
Until next time…