Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Another Fine Mess Steven's Got Himself Into

Having watched the Steven Universe "Wanted" series of episodes on Monday (SPOILERS, I guess), I'm curious at what's going to end up being the truth about the shattering of Pink Diamond.

The trial of Rose Quartz, with Steven standing in for his mother, lit a big neon sign that the accepted version of Pink Diamond's end is not the truth. That someone else did it and used the rebel Rose Quartz as a convenient scapegoat. It's likely no one would believe her if she protested, though I'd suspect she wouldn't bother. Being known as someone who shattered a Diamond would provide a decent intimidation factor, a certain dangerous cachet.

Steven's counsel made the brief mistake of suggesting one of the other Diamonds may have done it, and while I wouldn't be entirely surprised if it turns out Yellow Diamond is responsible (or the White Diamond we've yet to meet), I wonder if the answer isn't still that Rose did, but that Pink Diamond let her. That Rose somehow convinced her Diamond that Rose was right to fight to protect the Earth from the exploitation of Homeworld. Pink Diamond knew her sisters wouldn't go along*, but also didn't want to escalate a small rebellion into an all-out civil war. So she let Rose shatter her as a way to strike a little terror into Homeworld, maybe make them back off, throw them into disarray. She'd have to swear all her attendants to secrecy beforehand, make them agree to stick to the narrative of Rose attacking (and keep it simple since some of those Gems ain't too bright, no pun intended).

It's a long shot, overly convoluted compared to say, Yellow Diamond being responsible. But it would play into the idea of Rose keeping secrets from the other Gems, or Garnet's statement that Rose did things if she believed them necessary, even at cost to herself. She may have hoped to win her Diamond over to her way of seeing things, and ultimately to her side. She could manage the first, but not the second, not entirely. It might also explain Rose's reluctance to let Bismuth use the Breaking Point, if Rose's shattering of Pink Diamond has been even more difficult than we might imagine.

There is a downside in that it's been interesting (if frustrating at times) watching Steven struggle with how his feelings about his mother's actions don't really line up with the Gems' way of seeing her. He could still be conflicted over her shattering Pink Diamond, but if Rose did so at Pink's insistence, that's a somewhat different matter.

On the other hand, if that got Steven to stop trying to take responsibility for everyone else's decisions, that would be swell (hence the frustrating). That whole episode leading up to this event, Steven spent the entirety of it blaming himself that ultimately the Diamonds sent agents to abduct some of his friends. Their choice, not his, but he blames himself for admittedly careless statements to Peridot months ago, maybe longer. The Diamonds gave the order, but Steven's spending the entire attempted rescue whining about how it's his fault. Maybe not out of the ordinary for a sensitive kid like Steven. Kids will blame themselves for things they had nothing to do with. Still, if he had focused a little more on the actual rescue, it might have gone more smoothly.

I'm used to characters with overdeveloped senses of responsibility; I like Spider-Man after all. But if Spidey's trying to stop Hobgoblin, he may blame himself for not stopping Hobgoblin sooner, but the Hobgoblin's actions are his own. Those actions are why Hobgoblin ultimately gets punched in the face. Steven's not really the punching type, but I'm going to need him to figure out what he should and should not take the blame for at some point.

A few other thoughts:

- Gonna be curious to see Steven explain what's happened with Lars to his parents, or Sadie for that matter. She tends to hit things when she gets frantic or startled. "Lars died, and now he's pink, has no heartbeat, and there's a Subspace Doorway hidden in his hair" is gonna be pretty startling. And of course, now Steven has a big decision he made to feel conflicted over, leaving Lars behind. But Steven was putting them in greater danger, and as yet, they don't have any way to get Lars back home. I was trying to figure out some way to use Lion to manage it. Like the puzzle about getting the chicken, the fox, and the corn across the river when you can only carry two in the boat at a time, but I couldn't figure it out. Isn't really the same thing, anyway.

- Still, after a bunch of past episodes where Lars' behavior hurt other people, it's recently been a case of Lars' fear or rejection or failure hurting himself. And then he listened to Steven, really listened for maybe the first time, and was the big damn hero. It was nice, even if it didn't end all that well for him. But a lot of Steven's early attempts at saving the day were a little awkward and imperfect. The difference is, Steven had the other Gems there to watch over him. Lars only had Steven. I'm not sure what'll happen with Lars going forward, if he'll figure out some strange powers of his own, like Lion has, or how he's going to adjust to living on Homeworld. Be interesting to see if there are places he can infiltrate easily because he doesn't register with the robots.

- I liked the Off-Color gems Steven and Lars found on Homeworld. Peridot had mentioned a long while back that more recent gems such as herself didn't typically have powers, and had to rely on technological enhancements because resources were running low. Homeworld has overextended itself (possibly no other suitable worlds nearby to mine once Earth was out of the question?). And yet you get the feeling the Diamonds, through whatever gems function as mouthpieces to the larger community, tell everyone all is well. Earth is not the home of a rebellion, because it doesn't exist. Everything is fine, all gems are as they should be, following their assigned purpose. An attempt to maintain the illusion of a non-existent perfect past. And here are these few gems that are different, having to live in hiding to survive in the empty remains of a gem birthing/creation place. The people who get left behind, or actively destroyed because they threaten the illusion.

- Padparadscha's repeating things that just happened could get old fast, so probably would be best used sparingly. The others seem like that would be less of a problem, depending on one's tolerance for Flourite's deliberate pace of speech. Getting them to Earth, or spending some time with them as they try to find a new safe place on Homeworld to flesh them out wouldn't hurt.

- It'd be nice to have some Gems on Earth ultimately that aren't involved in fighting Homeworld. Peridot and Lapis only help occasionally, but they do help sometimes. It'd be nice to see some Gems there who just get to enjoy existing as they choose, and don't have to be drawn into the war. Maybe that's not possible, though, yet. The Crystal Gems are typically seen as a metaphor for gender or sexuality identity issues. I'm a heterosexual white guy, so the main thing I know is I really don't know what that's like, other than that people often have to live in fear for their lives, or of the government declaring them without rights. In that case, maybe you never get to not be involved. Even if you aren't actively fighting, being who you are means other forces are going to try and harm you, so in that sense, you are still fighting? But that was the point of Rose's rebellion, not just to preserve Earth, but to give Gems a choice about their lives, outside the strict roles Homeworld imposed. So at some point, we would see Gems following that, and not fighting, right?

- The pacing on this show is maddening sometimes. They know they're being hunted, they know they are going to be shattered if found, so let's stand around and watch Steven make a sandwich, or extol the virtues of Earth. How about this: If you get to Earth, you probably won't be shattered in the next 10 minutes. Move your butts! The episode established this tension, but the characters abruptly seem entirely divorced from it.

* Blue Diamond is portrayed as still grieving over Pink's loss thousands of years later, but I wonder if it isn't a case of regret. Maybe they weren't as close back in the day, and Blue feels if they had been, she'd have been there to save Pink Diamond. Pure supposition, combined with a wariness for surprise reveals, but there you go.

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