There’s nothing here but me.
This is yet another of Steven Universe’s “aftermath” episodes, but it deals almost entirely in Steven’s own emotional fallout in light of recent revelations about Rose’s character. He’s not eager to open up that can of worms, though, so he’s more than happy when Connie’s mom is running late, so he can have her company for a little longer. At least until she starts getting really worried.
Connie: This is really weird. My mom always answers her phone.
Steven: Oh! How about I give you a ride home on Lion?
Connie: It’s not getting home that I’m worried about – what if she shows up here and we’re gone? We should probably stay put until she comes.
Of course, all it really was is that she had to work late, her phone died, and she couldn’t find a charger, but I certainly understand Connie’s panic.
And all too soon he’s alone with his thoughts.
I really appreciate the silence behind everything in the first part of the episode – the silence that lets your thoughts run wild. Even when Connie’s still around, Steven clearly feels it when she gets distracted from whatever they’re doing.
Steven: You know, sometimes I wonder if it’s even you up there, smiling all day and night. I just want to know the real you, not the you that everyone tells me about. I…just want to know the truth.
And then Rose’s Room invites him in for a visit that surely won’t be awkward or emotional!
Steven: I know nothing in here is real, but…but I want to see my mom.
Rose: Hello, Steven.
Steven: Um, it’s…it’s nice to meet you.
Rose: It’s nice to meet you, too.
Again, there’s a heartbreaking sadness as you’re acutely aware that this isn’t real, and that Steven knows it, but he’s so desperate at this point that he’s willing to pretend for a while.
She largely speaks in phrases derived from what Steven heard from the tape (when she’s not just asking for his thoughts/opinion). And after they’ve played video games and catch, she pulls a Charlie Brown kick, and it’s weirdly fitting: Charlie Brown will never kick the football, but he’ll still fall for it every time.
Then she invites him to sit down and talk about his thoughts.
Steven: For my whole life, I’ve been hearing stories about you. About how amazing you were, that you were so kind and loving, and every time I’d see the painting of you hanging in the Temple, I’d be inspired, and reminded of how much I had to live up to. I, uh, I’ve even thought about dyeing my hair pink. More than once.
Rose: There’s nothing wrong with your hair. It’s wonderful just the way it is. Wonderful in every way, just like you.
Steven: Wow. This is nice. It’s really nice. I should’ve tried this a long time ago.
Rose: But Steven, don’t you realize? We’ve been together this whole time.
Steven: Oh! That’s right! Oh, this is the first time we’ve hung out together! I’ve gotta capture this moment!
And that’s when the illusion shatters.
Steven: There’s nothing here but me. I’m just talking to myself. You’re not my mom.
Rose: I’m not?
Steven: This is how I want you to be, and I don’t know if this is who you really are. I’ve learned things about you. Things you wanted to keep secret. You locked Bismuth away inside Lion, because she wanted to shatter Gems, and you never told Garnet or Pearl. But then you shattered Pink Diamond! And now all of Homeworld has it out for Earth, and the Crystal Gems, and me! You put us all in danger and you just, disappeared!
He wants to believe in this perfect version of his mother, because who wouldn’t want to believe in someone like that? The Crystal Gems certainly seem convinced (or at least want to be) despite any evidence to the contrary. Greg seems to have a healthier view, but that’s mostly because he acknowledges that there are parts of her past he chose to ignore when building their relationship.
Steven: I finally know the truth. I know what you are. You’re a liar! I thought you never wanted to hurt anyone, but you hurt everyone! How could you just leave Garnet and Amethyst and Pearl, and Dad? They don’t know what to do without you. Maybe they didn’t matter to you as much as hiding from the mess you made! And that’s why I’m here, isn’t it? Did you make me just so you wouldn’t have to deal with all your mistakes? Is that all I’m here for?
Rose: Steven, you know that isn’t true. In the tape I left you, I told you how much I wanted to have you and let you exist. Do you think what I said to you in the tape was a lie?
Steven: No. I’m sure…I’m sure you meant it. I get it. I know you didn’t want me to deal with your problems. But you’re a part of me now, and I have to deal with what you left behind.
She wouldn’t have wanted him to spend his life fixing her mistakes (although I doubt she understood the full scope of the damage she caused), but that’s just who he is – Steven is a kid who wants to help people, and like Rose, he’s uniquely equipped to heal and protect. If he sees a need and is able to fulfill it, he’s not gonna stand by and do nothing.
Greg: Hey Stuball! Guess who’s back in jean shorts? And guess who also got you pizza? It was me!
Until next time…