This isn’t normal.

At long last, we’ve reached the divisive conclusion of the series proper: Abusive family dynamics, giant robot battles, brainwashing, and Wrinkle in Time allusions!  This is the length of four regular episodes, so let’s get started.

Blue Diamond: I cannot believe you! Making a scene like that!

Steven: We weren’t trying to make a scene! We were just…dancing? Connie? What have you done with Connie?

Blue Diamond: What have I done? What have you done? You’re the one that wanted to keep those organics from the Kyanite colony – I’m just the fool that let you. […] Now your little pets are chasing the pearls up and down the halls. What were you thinking, letting them loose in the ballroom? […] Pink, White is very unhappy with you. If this keeps up, she’s going to take away your Pearl.

Steven: I know. I’m sorry.

Blue Diamond: Why do you always do this, Pink?

Of course that was just another dream-memory…but it’s not terribly different from the situation Steven finds himself in now.

Except that he’s not alone.

Blue Diamond: I cannot believe you! Making a scene like that! […]

Connie: We didn’t mean any harm! I asked Steven to dance, he wasn’t trying to cause trouble!

Blue Diamond: What do you know about this, human?

Connie: You think I’ve never been grounded before? […]

Steven: Blue, you’ve gotta let us out of here, we’re gonna starve!

Blue Diamond: Starve? What is this? Another made-up problem? Another trick so I’ll cave and let you out? Well, not this time! You’re not leaving this tower until you apologize for fusing at the ball!

Steven: No. […] What? I’m not sorry.

Blue Diamond: We finally have you back, and you’re worse than ever!

No matter how soft he is, Steven at least has the integrity not to lie to get out of trouble – which is probably an improvement on OG Pink Diamond, but naturally that’s not how Blue sees it.

Steven: It’s fine, Connie, I’m not even sad.

Connie: But you’re really dehydrated!

Connie reminds me a lot of Sam in this episode, constantly reminding Steven to take care of himself, both physically and mentally.

Blue Diamond: Oh, Pink! Your time on Earth has warped your sense of right and wrong!

Steven: Yeah, maybe it has. Maybe Pink thought you were right to lock her in here when she messed stuff up. But I know what it’s like to have a loving family, and we don’t do stuff like this to each other. The Crystal Gems understand that I’m Steven, and they support me and Connie, and you guys poofed them for sticking up for me! That isn’t normal.

Blue Diamond: That’s enough!

Steven: This isn’t normal. How many times did you lock her in here? How many times did you make her cry?

Blue Diamond: I didn’t! I- and I’m doing it again, aren’t I? And this is why you left, isn’t it? You were right to leave. I always thought that you were failing this world, but if you were happier on Earth, maybe this world was failing you. We never should’ve brought you back here. Your family, your Crystal Gems, are bubbled. Let’s get you all back in your legs and back home.

It’s because Steven was able to live a (relatively) normal life that he’s able to recognize the inherent dysfunction within the Diamond “family”.

And this is where a big element of the old wish-fulfillment fantasy comes in, because once again, these kinds of transformations take time in one person, let alone a whole family.  But I want it so much at this point that I’m willing to forgive it, if not quite overlook it.

So Blue facilitates their escape, and after food (and changing out of their ball garb), they head to what appears to be Yellow Diamond’s room where the Crystal Gems are being held.

And naturally, Yellow’s right there waiting to stop them.

Yellow Diamond: What are you doing, Blue? Take Pink back to the tower.

Blue Diamond: She prefers to be called Steven.

Yellow Diamond: What are you talking about? You can’t keep bending the rules for her, Blue! She has to set an example, and we have to set an example! If we bend the rules for her, we have to bend them for everyone!

Connie: Well, maybe you should!

Blue has finally made up her mind to stand by Steven…so she ends up in a fight with Yellow.

Yellow Diamond: When we thought Pink was shattered, when she abandoned us, I alone was there for you, and you would use your power against me?

I mean, they have a right to be mad about what Pink did, but that’s not what’s really going on here.  What’s going on is Yellow using their shared trauma as leverage to guilt Blue into doing what she wants.

Yellow Diamond: You’d hurt a fellow Diamond?

Blue Diamond: Didn’t we hurt Pink? She was suffering in silence for ages, just like our Gems, just like me! And I know you’re suffering in silence, too.

Steven: Stop! You don’t have to do this.

Yellow Diamond: Yes I do! This is what White Diamond expects of all of us, from a thin flake of mica to the biggest, hardest stone! We all must make sacrifices for the sake of our perfect empire!

Steven: Does this look perfect to you?

Steven: My dad says, if every porkchop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs. […] It means if you try to make this empire perfect, if you just wipe away everything you see as flawed, you lose all the things that make you happy. Like hot dogs.

Blue Diamond: Or our Pink.

Because it always comes back to hot dogs.

Yellow Diamond: Stop. Stop it, Blue. Stop using your power on me.

Blue Diamond: I’m not.

They’re finally realizing the part they played in driving Pink Diamond away, and in turn, how broken the system they’ve always lived with is.

Now that they’re done fighting each other, they’re able to consider slightly smaller matters.  Like how Steven managed to free the Crystal Gems from their bubble, but none of them have reformed, not even Amethyst.

Yellow Diamond: They’ll be out for a good while. They took a direct hit from me.

I mean, considering that Lapis and Peridot hadn’t reformed when Steven reached out to Bismuth, they must’ve been out for at least a couple days.

Speaking of which, guess who flies in punching when White Diamond commandeers Steven’s legs?

Bismuth: I’ve always wanted to uppercut an upper-crust!

First of all, Lapis and Peridot both look fabulous in their new Crystal Gem forms (Peri went a little overboard on the stars, while Lapis went for a more subtle design).  Peridot’s powers would probably be more useful then Lapis’ on Homeworld, though, especially now that she’s figured out how to fly around on a trash can lid!

White Pearl: Very cute. Glad to see we’re having fun. However, White Diamond has certain issues with your conduct that will need to be addressed before we move forward.

Blue and Yellow have mostly been focused on helping Steven escape, but when they tell him to get in a ship and leave, he can’t bring himself to leave them to face White Diamond alone.

Yellow Diamond: This way of living…it must’ve been like torture for you. Just go, hurry! She’s getting up!

Steven: No, no! I won’t go. Pink Diamond ran away from you. Rose Quartz, my mom, she started a war with you! But I don’t want to run, I don’t want to fight! I just want to talk! We’ve come so far just to get White Diamond’s attention, and now we finally have it! If we can fix our family, we can fix everything!

Blue Diamond: But in order to fix it, we’d have to admit that it’s broken.

Yellow Diamond: She’ll never want to hear it.

Steven: But it’s the truth!

What’s more, since White Diamond effectively has total control over their family, to admit that their whole relationship is broken would mean admitting that something about White is fundamentally flawed, which doesn’t seem like it would go over well.

Then Connie encourages the Diamonds with an anecdote about her own relationship with her parents…which was always kind of a weak plot point in my opinion, but it’s far more plausible than fixing a mess like this as quickly.

Yellow Diamond: We- we…we need to talk! About us. I’ve conquered so many worlds for the sake of the empire, I do everything you ask, and I do it all perfectly. But your very high standards put us all under a lot of pressure. A Gem could crack under so much pressure. We Diamonds may be hard, but we’re also brittle.

Blue Diamond: White, we used to be close, don’t you remember? When Pink would make us laugh, all those silly things she did for no reason. But there was a reason. She wanted us to be happy together, but we weren’t, and we’re still not. I know my purpose isn’t to be happy, but I find it harder and harder to enforce your rules when they make me miserable. When they make us all miserable.

Steven: White, please. Why don’t you let us all into your head? We could come up with a plan to help everyone! You could start by helping Yellow and Blue.

She doesn’t take this too well.

Why yes, that IS White Diamond taking control of their bodies and wills, and it is terrifying.

Then everyone else starts falling, and while Connie and Bismuth manage to hang on to the ones that can fly, Steven has to dive after the still-unformed Crystal Gems, and he manages to catch Amethyst first.

Steven: Amethyst! Please reform, I need you! Amethyst, can you hear me in there? Everyone’s falling! We can save them, together!

Smokey Quartz: Don’t worry! I’m here for- uh, what just happened? Holy smokes, I’m Smokey! Steven, you beautiful genius, you pulled Amethyst out of her Gem through fusion?

And naturally, this gives him a plan.

Rainbow Quartz 2.0 here is delightfully silly with a terrible British accent and some serious Mary Poppins vibes and I love it ALL.

And then there’s Sunstone, who appears to speak only in “cool” inspirational pullquotes, which is still weirdly endearing.  But unfortunately not enough to get up to White Diamond’s head.

Garnet: It’s time to form Obsidian.

Yep, at long last, we get to see their ultimate form, which is indeed huge and impressive, but unfortunately, it’s still a bit of a climb to reach White Diamond, so the others fly around to keep the hand-ships busy.

That thing is awesome.  And also looks an awful lot like the Temple…

The others get knocked out of the sky (but fortunately not poofed), except for Connie, who now has her own sword and is able to hang on and follow after Obsidian.

Then they finally get into her head, and it turns out that’s not even half the battle.

White Diamond: Oh, Starlight, what are you doing crawling in here? You want your legs back? You want your planet back? Surely you can understand why I can’t let you leave. Look what you did to yourself last time.

And this is where the Wrinkle in Time motif really paid off in my opinion.  It involves, well, IT, a utilitarian evil that rules by conformity.  IT can take any emotion and mold it to its will – except love, because that’s the one thing IT’s system lacks.

So here we have Steven facing White Diamond, a utilitarian evil that rules through conformity.

White Diamond: Poor Yellow. Her impurities absorb all the blue in her light. She’s so strong, but so weak when it comes to Blue. Ah, and Blue. Her impurities soak up all of the warmth in her spectrum. She thinks she needs you, Pink. As for me, I’m certain I don’t need you. After all, I’m every color of the light. But you’re a part of me, the part I always have to repress.

Steven: What?

That’s a legitimate response.

Emotions don’t appear to be what she’s lacking – she has feelings like love, she just expresses them in warped and unhealthy ways.

Like mind-controlling Steven’s friends and scrutinizing Pink’s actions.

White Diamond: It’s a pity the way you bring out the worst in others. See how you’ve encouraged their deficiencies? It’s written all over their Gems. Insecure. Dependent. Obsessed.

White Diamond: There we are! I’ve removed their flaws. Now there’s nothing to hinder my white light from sparkling through them. I’d rather not spread my uninhibited self so thin, you know, but you’ve made it absolutely necessary. Now the impurities you’ve encouraged in them are gone. Now they are brilliant. Now they are perfect! Now they are me!

It occurred to me when I first saw this that that is what an awful lot of people (including plenty of Christians) think the Christian God is like.  It’s not the God I believe in, but I totally get why people would get that impression, and why they might despise an organization that values those principles.

Steven ain’t having it, either.

Steven: You’re wrong. Please, just listen to me! My friends don’t need to be fixed! They’re fine the way they are, flaws and all!

White Diamond: There you go again. Do you understand why you defend their flaws? I know why, Pink. You like surrounding yourself with inferior Gems. […] You enable their terrible behavior so you can be the best of the worst.

Steven: That’s not true! And even if it is…even if it was, you’re talking about my mom, you’re not talking about me!

Anyone who’s watched this show (or any one of his friends) could tell him he always encourages the people around him to be the best they can be, and thanks in large part to him, the Crystal Gems have grown a ton over the course of the series!  But White manages to find an in by getting him to blame his mom.

Then Connie finally arrives.  And gets caught before she can do anything to help.

White Diamond: These worthless Gems weren’t enough, were they? See how you surround yourself with lower lifeforms? You smothered yourself in them. It feels good, doesn’t it, Pink? Dulling your power, hiding your face, blaming everything on someone else. You became Rose Quartz to deceive your pathetic friends, and now you’ve improved on that, because you’re even deceiving yourself.

Again, there are little tells that she doesn’t know Pink as well as she thinks – like how she claims Pink became Rose to deceive her “friends”, when she originally became Rose expressly to fool the Diamonds.

But sadly, Steven has no one around to point out things like that.

Steven: No, you’re wrong! I’m not my mom!

White Diamond: But don’t you know things about her that you couldn’t possibly know?

Steven: I…I’ve just been connecting with her…my powers, they, they help me connect to others…I’m not her, I’m just feeling her feelings.

White Diamond: Isn’t it obvious? Even though you’ve embedded yourself in that human child, your light can’t help shining through. You know you’re in there. You’ve known it all along. Stop cowering inside your Gem. You can hide from yourself, but you can’t hide from me, Pink. […] Now, Starlight, this has gone on long enough. It’s time to come out, Pink.

There’s something shockingly visceral about this scene, even without any blood or overt violence.  She is quite literally taking away a piece of him, under the assumption that Steven isn’t “really” Pink.

At least Connie is there to help him.

And I love how the split screen creates both disorientation and a concrete connection between “Pink Diamond” and “Steven”.  Especially when Pink Diamond cycles to Rose Quartz, and then settles on Steven.

White Diamond: What is this? Where is Pink?

Pink Steven: She’s gone.

White Diamond: What did you say? Answer me!

Pink Steven: She’s GONE!

Then we discover that Pink Diamond may actually be stronger than White (at least without his human body).

White Diamond: Don’t you raise your shield at me! I only want you to be yourself! If you can’t do that, I’ll do it for you!

Steven: No, stop! You’re hurting them!

And when Pink Diamond starts wrecking things, Steven’s the only one he’ll listen to.

And Connie LITERALLY CARRIES HIM WHEN HE’S TOO WEAK TO STAND and I can’t.  THESE TWO.

Connie: Steven! Are you back together? Are you you?

Steven: Yeah, yeah! I’m me! I’ve always been me.

White Diamond: No! You are Pink Diamond! That is Pink Diamond’s Gem! You do not look like this, you do not sound like this, you are not half human, you’re just acting like a child!

Steven: am a child. What’s your excuse?

THIS BOY.

White Diamond: What is this? I feel ridiculous. Yellow! Blue!

Yellow Diamond: She’s off color!

White Diamond: This can’t be happening! I can’t have a flaw! I’m supposed to be flawless! If I’m not perfect, then who am I? If you’re not Pink, then who are you? Who is anyone?

Steven: You know, if you just let everyone be whoever they are, maybe you could let yourself be whoever you are, too.

White Diamond: But I’m not supposed to be like this! I’m supposed to know better, I’m supposed to be better! I’m supposed to make everything better!

Steven: You can, but first, you’re gonna have to leave your own head.

As much as I complain about the circumstances, I am totally fine with the redemption of the Diamonds.  I am willing to put up with incredible suspension of disbelief if it means Steven and his friends end up happy and healthy.  It’s a wish that I can relate to, to have a family come together and heal after pain and trauma instead of falling apart.  What White Diamond needed was to learn to value people besides herself – to learn empathy, a thing which Steven has in abundance.  And if I need a more realistic take on a broken family dealing with its brokenness, there’s always Fruits Basket.

Anyway, Sadie and her band are singing “Let Me Drive My Van Into Your Heart” when the Diamonds crash the show, followed shortly be Lars and his band of Off-colors, and it is perfect.

Sadie: Lars, look at you! You’re a space pirate!

Lars: Look at you! You’re a rock star!

Sadie: Well…

Lars: I think it suits us.

Sadie: Me too.

It certainly suits them.

Then the Diamonds have a little bubble bath to heal all the corrupted Gems (or at least a good chunk of them – Future indicates it’s still a work in progress).

And that’s about all, except one more Steven song for the road.

I don't need you to respect me, I respect me
I don't need you to love me, I love me
But I want you to know you could know me
If you change your mind
If you change your mind
Change your mind

If the show had ended here, I think I still would’ve been content to call it my favorite American cartoon, but it didn’t.  Because the battle is never the end of the story.

Next week: A more condensed review of the movie, and then, the future…

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