After all that Steven’s done trying to separate himself from his mother’s identity, he’s faced with the possibility that he might still end up repeating her mistakes.
Steven seems be enjoying his new role as Gem Doctor for all the injury-prone denizens of Little Homeworld (including the victims of a very intense game of volleyball). Then along comes this pearl, Pink Diamond’s original pearl who was “confiscated” by White Diamond and subsequently repurposed as her mouthpiece for millennia, and she’s hoping Steven can help with her cracked face…but for some reason his healing spit has no effect on it.
Steven: I’m sorry if it’s a sore subject, but do you remember anything that happened while you were under White Diamond’s control?
Pink Pearl: Nope! Eight thousand years just blip! Gone.
Steven: So you must not remember getting this crack in the first place.
Pink Pearl: Oh, no, no, this was from before.
Steven: White hurt you before she controlled you?
Pink Pearl: What? Oh, stars! What a misunderstanding. This was all Pink Diamond.
Steven: My mom? Sorry, it’s just baggage.
Pink Pearl: Is everything alright?
Steven: Yep! But this is not about me!
And thus Steven sets out to fix yet another person that was hurt by his mother…and it’s gradually becoming clear that it’s more “about him” than he’d like to admit.
Steven: Pearl, do you have a minute for me and my friend?
Pearl: Sure. Did you come to compete?
Pink Pearl: Pardon?
Pearl: Oh, I mean, in the volleyball tournament.
Sure, Pearl. But seriously, if the first thing you think when you see someone else who was close to Pink Diamond is “competition”, I don’t think you’re quite as over her as you make yourself out to be.
But two Pearls is still one too many for Steven, so he decides to give the other Pearl a nickname, and settles on the first thing that hits him: Volleyball. She’s surprisingly okay with it.
Volleyball: Volleyball? That’s so funny! You’re just like her.
Steven: No no no! I’m not like…anyway, we’re here about the crack on her face.
Pearl: Oh, poor thing. It’s such a shame what White did to her…Steven?
Steven: It doesn’t matter why it happened! What matters is finding a way to fix it. My healing powers didn’t work on her. We thought maybe you would know what to do.
Pearl: Well, when a pearl was damaged, they were usually brought to the Reef.
Volleyball: Yes! That’s exactly what Pink would do.
Pearl: Well, I was her pearl.
Volleyball: Me too! We were very close.
Why yes, it IS quite awkward how they brag about their enslavement…but that’s kind of the point. And I am very glad they’re finally making a point about it.
Volleyball: You really didn’t have to come all this way for such a trivial thing.
Steven: It’s not trivial! Soon, we’ll all be able to put the past behind us.
And there it is: He doesn’t really want to “help” Volleyball, he just wants to “fix” her so that he won’t have to look at another reminder of the pain his mother caused, and he hasn’t even bothered to ask how it happened.
Volleyball: So, how do I look?
Shell: I am sorry. There is nothing I can do.
Steven: But you just told us you could repair any pearl!
Shell: Her physical form shows damage, but her pearl is perfectly fine. This injury must have been so impactful that it continues to manifest despite the fact that her pearl has been repaired.
Steven: So, it’s like, psychological?
Volleyball: That’s absurd! I am fine.
Pearl: How could White be so careless?
Volleyball: Oh, no Pearl, you’ve got it all wrong! Pink did this.
Pearl: What did you say?
Because the only thing worse than stealing her Diamond’s love is impugning her Diamond’s honor.
Volleyball: It’s a funny story, really. Once, Pink got tired of asking Yellow and Blue for her own colony, so she went straight to White. Of course White told her that she wasn’t fit to run one, and well, that set her off.
Pearl: Set her off? What are you talking about?
Volleyball: You remember how she was, with her destructive powers and tantrums left and right. She had a scream that could crack the walls. She didn’t mean to hurt me, I just happened to be standing too close to her that time.
Steven: It doesn’t matter! I’m gonna fix it!
And that’s what’s really wrong with Steven’s mindset: He doesn’t care about her pain as long as he can fix it. And Pearl, on the other hand, refuses to acknowledge her pain at all – even Volleyball herself doesn’t want to acknowledge it, because it means blaming Pink Diamond.
Pearl: Destructive powers? Pink didn’t have destructive powers, she was a healer! She didn’t throw tantrums, she kept her feelings secret!
Volleyball: The Pink I knew couldn’t keep a secret to save her Gem.
Pearl: Are you kidding? If anything, she was too good at keeping secrets! Even from me!
Steven: Stop it! I can’t deal with one more horrible thing she did, okay? I don’t want to hear about it, I don’t even want to think about it!
Then Steven exhibits some destructive powers. And Volleyball is clearly triggered. And I can’t.
Steven: I just want to fix it!
He regrets his outburst immediately, but unfortunately, there are some things you can’t take back.
Shell: I am terribly sorry for the troubles these defective pearls have brought you. For pearls exhibiting problems this severe, rejuvenation is required. When the process is complete, they will obey you without fail.
Pearl: I’m sorry for not believing you. It looks like I’m still making excuses for her.
Volleyball: Is that what I’ve been doing? But she didn’t mean to!
Pearl: But you were hurt! Badly hurt.
Volleyball: I was badly hurt. How did you stop hurting?
Pearl: I didn’t.
This needed to be said. After presenting the seriously screwed up power dynamic between Pink Diamond and Pearl largely uncritically, they needed to come out and say that it was really never healthy. And this is why I stand behind Steven Universe Future 100% – even if this was the only thing it had to say, I would still stand behind it. Fortunately (at least for the audience, if not for the characters), there’s still more to be gleaned.
First of all, I must acknowledge the Utena reference – specifically, MegaPearl here is an obvious allusion to Anthy, aka the character who suffered the most at the hands of an unjust system, but was so broken that she still ended up defending it. And she was only “saved” when someone in a similar situation reached out to her. And I seriously cannot.
Steven: I’m so sorry. The whole trip was for nothing.
MegaPearl: No, it wasn’t for nothing. Your mother’s pearls never had the whole picture. One knew your mother was trying to change, but couldn’t understand why. The other never expected her to change at all. Now I get to understand everything. They finally get to have each other.
It’s notable that Steven was forced to stand back and let the Pearls help each other. Sometimes, as much as you might care about someone, the best thing you can do is let them get help elsewhere.
This episode opens up a lot of questions about Steven’s newfound powers, but it also offers some more concrete hope for the other Diamonds’ redemption. Rose obviously had to work hard to turn her destructive powers into healing powers, just like she had to work to control her anger. Maybe she went too far in the other direction, but it’s still proof she was trying. And if she can turn her harmful powers to good use, why not the other Diamonds? It still doesn’t undo all the pain she caused, but nothing could ever do that, not really. What’s important is that she recognized her mistakes and tried her best to make up for them. And now that the Pearls can see that more clearly, they can try to heal, too.
Until next time…