We get our first glimpse of the new normal for Steven Universe…and our first hints of the conflict to come in his little happily ever after.
I was initially quite skeptical of more Steven Universe (since, as I’ve said before, I’m generally a fan of stories that end), but when I heard Steven Universe Future billed as an “epilogue season”, I became much more optimistic. I mentioned before that in some ways this show feels like a response to Harry Potter, and this “epilogue” definitely feels like a rebuttal of the epilogue for Harry Potter, which was essentially “they all lived happily ever after” stretched out to fill a whole chapter. No, this is more of a Lord of the Rings extended ending than anything else, where there’s a lot of happiness with the big evil defeated, but still plenty of not-so-great consequences of the conflict, some of which might never heal.
But there are still plenty of things Steven can heal.
Cherry Quartz: Where am I? Who are you?
Steven: That used to be a loaded question, but now I can say with confidence that I’m Steven Universe! And you’re in my bathroom.
Cherry Quartz: What happened to me? What is this?
Steven: You were corrupted in a Diamond blast, but you’ve just been healed! And that is a plunger.
This boy is STILL too precious. Also he’s officially inherited the car now. MY BOY IS DRIVING!
Steven: Life is a little different these days. The Diamonds have ended their reign of terror, the intergalactic war is over, and Earth is officially an independent planet. We’re all safe to explore our dreams. Lars opened up his own pastry shop, and it’s got a real cute space gimmick going on. Sadie’s been touring with the Suspects, promoting their new album, and Connie’s been getting a head start on college prep. She’s two years away from applying, but she says it doesn’t hurt to start early.
Why yes, they HAVE used this image for a lo-fi playlist, and it was most likely inspired by the shot from Whisper of the Heart that is also used for lo-fi playlists. But also also, it’s just so sweet to finally see Connie’s space, and they have pictures of each other in their rooms, but somehow they’re not dating yet…also she still has that glow bracelet and I can’t.
Steven: And speaking of higher education, Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, and I have been cooking up a dream of our own!
Well, she’s certainly an ideal professor in that department…
Also, since I didn’t really get a chance to talk about their “new” forms before, I’ll just say that I love how Amethyst is finally openly displaying her Gem. She’s just so much more confident now and bless her for it.
Steven: Here at Little Homeschool, you have a chance to rediscover yourself, and learn to live on Earth, if you like. You can forge a new identity, grow your own ideas, find your inner morp.
Cherry Quartz: What’s a morp?
Steven: That’s exactly the kind of question we love to hear!
Then they drop in on a session of Amethyst’s class…where she promptly instructs them to do whatever they want for an hour, and proceeds to go to lunch with Steven.
Amethyst: This school thing’s such a cool idea! I love being a teacher – no one’s ever looked up to me before, y’know? Except for wittle baby Steven! Seriously, dude, it’s been going great. Everyone wants to come and learn how to be an Earthling!
Steven: Eh, not everyone…
Amethyst: Dude, forget her!
Steven: I don’t know, I’m worried. We healed all these Gems and built that town and the school because I wanted to fix some of the bad things the Diamonds did. Knowing there’s someone out there still hurting because of the Diamonds, because of…Mom…I mean, I know it’s not my fault, but if there’s a chance I can make it better, shouldn’t I try?
Amethyst: I think you should stop trying to fix everyone.
Steven: Yeah, you’re right…
Guess what he does in the very next scene?
For real, tho, you have your Amethyst, she generally seems to give solid advice nowadays, so listen to her! Gone are the days when she promoted dangerous pranks on humans…
And now apparently Steven has taken to doing stupid things all by himself!
Okay, maybe not stupid – he’s at least capable of defending himself against Jasper. It’s just pointless and he should know that by now.
Jasper: Any earthling that invades my space gets crushed! Took forever to yank those puny green earthlings out of the ground…
Steven: …You mean grass?
Jasper: I don’t know their names!
Jasper’s just being stubborn at this point – but then, so is Steven.
Steven: What are you even training for? There’s no one left to fight.
Jasper: There’s always someone to fight. There’s just no one left worth fighting.
Steven: In that case, maybe you could come join us at Little Homeschool?
Steven: Come on! We’re all learning and growing together! And you could be a part of that!
Jasper: Sounds dumb.
Steven: You know, half those Gems are soldiers that fought by your side before they got corrupted and turned into monsters. They’re lost and confused and still a little messed up, but they’re getting the help they need!
Jasper: So? Who cares?
Steven: I do! And if I didn’t care, you’d still be a monster, too!
Jasper: And what? Now I owe you?
You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.
Jasper: You think because you did something I never asked for, I’m going to obey you?
Steven: No, that’s not-
Jasper: Like all the other Gems you use.
Steven: I only came here because I felt bad for you! But all of this is your own fault! All the other Gems were corrupted by the Diamonds, but you corrupted yourself, just to win a fight! Which you lost! To me! No one’s making you stay here all alone in the middle of nowhere, ready to fight a war that’s been over for years! Are you just going to sit here for centuries, waiting for someone to give you a purpose? Because I’m trying to give you one!
I think Amethyst had Steven’s real motive down: He just wants to fix Jasper to make himself feel better. And I think Jasper understands that, too. It might be a little much to say he’s just “using” all the other Gems to make himself feel better, he obviously has a genuine desire to help them! But there’s still an element of selfishness to his philanthropy. And being self-righteous about it sure isn’t going to change Jasper’s mind.
Jasper: Listen, weakling! You might have Pink Diamond’s Gem, but you are not my Diamond, and I am not going to take orders from some weak, sappy, useless piece of dirt! If you think you’re hard enough to tell me what to do, then fight me and prove it!
Jasper: Really? Huh, well then, why don’t you throw the first punch.
Steven: I guess we’re doing this…
It’s telling that Jasper doesn’t crack a smile until Steven agrees to fight her. Steven’s kind of created a world where everything she ever strived for is irrelevant, and he represents a deep betrayal: Her Diamond was also her hated adversary. She literally drove herself crazy for a lie, so it makes sense that she wouldn’t be quick to trust again. And as formidable an opponent as she is, she’s still mostly just pitiful, with nothing left to fight for but her own petty grievances. Like how she tries to get Steven to stop trying to save all the “earthlings” they’re disturbing and focus on the fight.
Steven: I’ll never stop trying to help them! Or you!
Jasper: I don’t need your help! You’re the one that needs help! You think you’ve beaten me, but you’ve never beaten me on your own! You’ve always been a fusion! You’ve always had your friends! Because you’re nothing without them! You think I’m the one that needs help!
Steven: I…I just-
Jasper: But it’s only you. No one is as pitiful as you!
They’re clearly operating under very different definitions of the word “help”. Jasper’s still talking about power, particularly strength in battle, while Steven’s idea of “help” encompasses physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing…and what really rubs him the wrong way is not so much that he needs help in the fight, but the thought that he might need help in other areas of his life, too.
Steven: I’m not pitiful!
And that’s when he discovers his new super-mode: Pink Steven. He’s practically invulnerable and seems to have limitless strength. And Jasper is thrilled to get beat up.
Steven: Stop laughing!
Naturally, what stops him is a twinge of conscience once he’s thrown her into the ground (Looney Tunes style).
Jasper: I didn’t think you had it in you.
Steven: I don’t- I don’t know what that was. I’m sorry.
Jasper: Don’t apologize!
Steven: I think I had you all wrong. Maybe you don’t have something to learn from me. Maybe I have something to learn from you. Would you ever be interested in teaching?
Jasper: At your crummy little school?
Steven: No, just me. You brought something out of me I didn’t even know I had.
Jasper: Consider that fight back there your first and only lesson.
I’m not so sure training with Jasper would be a good idea…mainly because, as Steven has constantly pointed out, there’s no one left to fight. Sure, Pink Steven is super strong, but why would he need that kind of power? Also, it was clearly tied to his anger, and when he’s actually angry, he could easily forget himself and hurt someone or something. But at least he seems to respect Jasper’s autonomy now.
Steven: There are fundamental things about ourselves that we know to be true. It’s important to remember those things when you find yourself in a tough situation, or you need to make decisions from the heart. But it’s equally important to know you can surprise yourself, too. I thought I’d finally figured myself out, but it looks like I still have more to learn. Man, life is a wonderful mystery.
Until next time…