What time is it? Time for a new Steven Bomb! Steven Universe’s fourth season has been a somewhat divisive one among the fandom. One thing we could all agree on after this promo was the hype for this season-ending run of episodes. Abductions? New Homeworld gems? Pearl crying? Okay, that last one is nothing new.
Bo and Gretchen have fused again to form Betchen, and we’re here to take care of all your Steven Universe needs. Let’s start things off with the much-anticipated (despite being leaked a month ago) “Lion 4: Alternate Ending”. Who doesn’t love a good Lion episode?
Spoilers for 4×21 “Lion 4: Alternate Ending” below
Oh boy, we’re kicking things off with the tape Rose left Steven. We’re not going to handle this well. Steven watches the tape and takes notes, trying to decode what he believes is a secret message regarding his magical gem destiny. He thinks Rose gave birth to her for this reason. Poor kid.
He’s interrupted when Lion hacks up a large pink key. And a fur ball. On the bed (as all cats do). Good old Lion. He tries the key on the chest inside Lion, the gem armory, Rose’s fountain, her room, and eventually himself. He then begs Lion to take him somewhere new, and Lion brings him to the desert where they found Lion. They spend hours traveling and eventually end up at a locked door with giant pink…something embedded in the sand. Legs? It looks like legs. We think they are leg ships. They match Blue’s and Yellow’s hand ships.
Steven unlocks the door and finds…a garbage dump. Apparently Rose dumped all her junk there. Cool junk, but junk all the same. Among the junk Steven finds another tape addressed to someone named Nora. He thinks there might be someone else like him.
Lion takes him to a hill overlooking Beach City, where Steven finds his dad practicing some songs. (The hill became his spot after a 7th grader with a flute muscled him out of another spot. We love you, Greg.) Steven shows him the tape and Greg plays it in his van. It turns out to be basically the same tape Rose made for Steven, but addressed to Nora instead. It also turns out Nora was the name Rose and Greg chose if Rose gave birth to a girl.
This is the final straw for Steven. He is sure his mother meant him to have some magical destiny and is frustrated that he can’t figure it out. He wants to know why his mother had him. Greg assures him they had no plan in mind, that Rose only wanted Steven to be Steven. They both just wanted Steven to be whatever he wanted, because that’s the magic of being a human being.
They finish watching the tape, and Rose talks about how excited she is for her child to simply live the life they want and how happy she is for everyone who will know them. Steven is happy to realize his mother loved him and wanted him just for himself.
Delightful Little Gems
- Lion does so many adorable cat things in this episode. Sometimes you forget the big house cat is a magical pink lion. As a cat parent, Gretchen can confirm that cats always manage to barf on the last thing you want them to barf on.
- There’s a book among the trash heap with a Crystal Gem star on it. Hmm.
- We love how Steven was so dedicated to the drama of the moment that he let himself dehydrate, just so he could dramatically gulp water when they reached the trash heap.
- Ugh, Greg got so emotional watching the Nora tape with Steven. Just end us now.
- The Crewniverse knew exactly what we thought when Lion hacked up that key. When will we find out the contents of the treasure chest inside Lion???
- No, seriously, were those leg ships?
- How many Nora AUs will come from this? We can’t wait to see them.
Oh, Steven. Our poor little Cookie Cat loving ball of adorableness. While a great many things have changed about him since the start of Steven Universe, one thing that has stayed consistent since the very first episode is Steven’s burden of expectation. He spends the entire first episode trying desperately to summon a gem weapon because he is Rose Quartz’s son and should have one. Needless to say he has never stopped trying to live up to a constantly warping image of who his mother is and what she wanted him to be. He has tried just as hard to be everything the Crystal Gems need him to be, even if that means being different than his mother.
Yet the push-pull of “my mom” vs “not my mom” has been Steven’s constant companion since the beginning. He struggles to live up to her expectations, and those he assumes the Crystal Gems have. At the same time, he’s constantly telling people that he’s not Rose. But where has that left him? Just who is Steven? And who is Rose?
It comes as no surprise that the revelations of his mother’s actions during the rebellion have made Steven question his mother’s motives. We saw as much during “Storm in the Room”. He began to view his mother as a manipulator. By the end of that episode, he accepted that she loved him and did not only use him to run away from her problems. Yet Steven still begins this episode with an incorrect perception of his mother. Rather than as an escape, he now believes Rose gave birth to him for some specific reason he must figure out. There is something he must do. Some action he must take in order to live up to the expectations if his existence. He’s no longer an escape route for Rose, he’s a Chosen One with a Magical Gem Destiny. He’s swung back to idealization again.
He cannot believe his existence alone was the only reason Rose wanted him. And if you have never felt that way about your own parents at some point, well, we’re happy for you. Many, many kids have felt what Steven is going through. Wondering why they exist. Heck, Amethyst has recently begun to resolve her own struggle with purpose and origin.
If you ask most parents, they’ll say they hope their child will become a better person than themselves. Sometimes this hope crosses over into expectation and demand. With some children, and the child of someone famous or influential especially, there exists the expectation they will live up to their mother or father’s achievements. Everyone around them will speak of such expectations.
Millions of kids grow up knowing their parents are a big deal and living with the knowledge the same or more is expected of them. They will shape their entire lives around what is expected of them, never thinking they exist simply because their parents wanted them. That their parents want them to find their own path and will love them just for them.
Steven has always lived this way. He must be what Rose Quartz was. He must be the gem she was. The leader she was. He must look after his father and the other Crystal Gems like she did. Steven most certainly became his own kid with his own hobbies and interests and personality, but he never thought just being himself was enough. Just existing was never enough. His mother was responsible for freeing the Earth from a tyrannical, all-powerful alien empire. How could simply being live up to Rose Quartz?
It’s no surprise, then, that when he has reached a point where he has accepted his mother’s mixed legacy, he would seek next to determine where he fits in it. If he’s not his mother’s escape, he must have a destiny to fulfill. Why else would she sacrifice herself to give birth to him? We love both how literal and metaphorical the show is at once. Lion coughs up a literal key, which Steven interprets to be the metaphorical key to his magical destiny. Following true epic hero journey logic, he must find out what the key opens, the key to his future. He arrives at the portal, his destiny only inches away…Only to discover his mother’s junk.
“This is just a bunch of garbage mom left behind!” — Steven
And if that isn’t the most real statement you’ve ever heard. Once again, it’s literally trash, but also the refuse of Rose’s legacy, the ‘garbage’ Steven has to sift through to find something meaningful for himself. That one phrase sums up basically all that Steven has been dealing with about Rose since this season started.
He does find something important, but again, it’s not what he expects. The answer to his Magical Gem Destiny is that he’s supposed to be a human. A person. He doesn’t have to live up to Rose’s legacy, either by conforming to to an idealized version of her or by completely rejecting her because of her actions in the rebellion. He doesn’t have to be her or the opposite of her. Steven can just be Steven, whatever that looks like.
Steven: So that it? I’m just supposed to be your kid.
Greg: Well…yeah. Is that okay?
Steven: Yeah, I think I can handle that.
Some children never reach a point where they feel free of an influential parent/parents. Steven probably won’t, either. But he’s starting to be okay with that. He’s accepted that he can have mixed feelings about his mom. He’s accepted that he’s ‘enough’ just as himself. He doesn’t have to make Rose’s choices, he can make his own without fear that they aren’t ‘right’. And as we’ll see later in this Bomb, he will do just that. He will choose his own path, one based on his thoughts and feelings and not what he thinks his mother would have done.
As we’ll see later in this bomb, this specific revelation was a very important to one Steven Quartz Universe.
Tune in tomorrow for the Maheswaran family stakeout!