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Analysis

Reflections on ‘A Single Pale Rose’

Spoilers for “A Single Pale Rose” ahead!

It’s been about two months since Steven Universe upended the apple cart of fan expectations again. The show has a habit of getting people into a comfortable rhythm and then completely changing the way the viewer sees the show. Revealing that Rose Quartz was Pink Diamond in the episode “A Single Pale Rose” was probably the the biggest bombshell the show has ever dropped. For days afterward, the fandom was left scrambling. Now that some of the dust has settled (and it’s been confirmed that Steven Universe will be back July 2nd) I think it’s time we took a look at some different opinions on the episode. I’ve collected some opinions from our contributors. Some are positive, others less so.


Kylie:

I’d say overall I had a bit of a mixed reaction to the reveal itself. Theory-crafting in the Steven Universe (SU) fandom is a little bit tiring for me, and nothing I engaged too deeply in. I certainly heard the Rose=Pink Diamond (PD) theory before, but I dismissed it off-hand because “Rose had a quartz gem” (and going with a twist like a Herkimer diamond seemed cheap to me). Obviously the disguised appearance makes a lot of sense; there was, however, a part of me that felt a little intentionally lied to, and a la Westworld “twists”.

That’s not to say this was my entire reaction to “A Single Pale Rose” itself, because the damn implications of the reveal was what really interested me, and I adore the way they were presented through the Pearl-ception. Steven’s throw-away line about “deeply repressed war memories” really hammers on it—this deception has had its impact, particularly on our anxiety-coded bird-mom suffering from PTSD. To that, the episode held no punches, though it ungrounded us further with the surreal, dreamlike quality of it all. It felt truly unsettling, and thinking back on what we know of Pink Diamond only increases the unease.

It makes me genuinely excited for where the show is going to go, particularly Steven reconciling this since he is the very literal embodiment of Rose’s…let’s say “redemption” arc, to simplify. He’s the one that carries this burden and still needs to work to fix her mistakes (at least, in his mind).


Griffin:

I kind of always assumed that Rose was Pink Diamond. I didn’t expect her to have gone all Emperor Palpatine and play both sides of a war that never needed to happen and have it explode in her face, which I loved, but at the same time…this fits. Ever since “Mr. Greg” (and a little bit with “Sworn to the Sword”) I’ve had a distinct feeling that Rose’s relationship with Pearl was really, really unhealthy. That, and Bismuth creating a sword that poofs, not shatters—honestly this wasn’t surprising to me. Then there was the trial with the Diamonds and y’know, it was very well seeded. All of it was there. That doesn’t make it any less as a story beat towards the narrative and the relationships between the Crystal Gems, as it is extremely important to explore the fallout of that revelation, but it’s like, y’know, what else could this have been?

That being said, I do love the idea that Steven is the actually the kind of person that Rose convinced everyone she was, but truly wasn’t. He’s this idealized beacon of hope, optimism, freedom, tolerance, acceptance, and love because he was raised by his dad and the Crystal Gems…who were following a false example that proved to be more powerful than the truth ever would or could be. So, in a round-about sort of way, Rose did become that inspirational, aspirational figure she saw herself as and presented herself as. Just, only after she died and created an entirely new life. And only after it wasn’t her. It’s kinda neat to look back and see all of the Homeworld Gems calling Steven Rose Quartz when we now know for sure that it’s more true than it ever was with the “actual” Rose Quartz.

It’s messed up, but Steven Universe has never been a show that treats its characters as infallible or unrealistically idealized without that crashing down. Even Garnet’s future-sight is nowhere near as useful as it seemingly should be. Sure, she runs around trying to jump herself to the world-line with the most absurd levels of causality and probability possible because she’s bored, but isn’t that super irresponsible? For, you know, the fate of the planet?


Bo:

For so long, I resisted even considering that Rose and Pink Diamond were the same person. There was always something more to Rose and especially Pink Diamond’s shattering, but I didn’t like this particular theory. I think it was around the time of “Jungle Moon” that I finally bought in and realized it was happening. And you know, I kind of feel bad for ever doubting that the Crewniverse could make it work. I always worried that Rose=PD would invalidate Rose Quartz somehow, or strip the Rebellion of its shades of gray. Instead, the reveal made everything even more complicated than before.

We’ll see where it goes from here (and I kind of said a lot about it already). We still need to see how SU handles the change in character dynamics, the reveals to other characters, and what Steven being Pink Diamond ultimately means to the story. I don’t really have any doubts, though, because why would I? It only took a single rewatch to understand how well seeded this reveal was and why it has inspired the fandom to levels of satisfaction I haven’t seen since season 3.

The Crewniverse nailed this.


Gretchen:

I’ll admit, Rose as Pink Diamond has been one of my favorite crack theories ever since we first saw the crumbling pink diamond insignia in “Sworn to the Sword” (2×06). I still remember when the first big meta about Rose = Pink Diamond came out. I devoured that shit. It made so much sense to me. But somewhere in the middle of S4, I started second guessing it. The more we saw Steven struggle with Rose’s legacy, the more I believed that Rose being Pink Diamond would undermine his growth. I didn’t want Rose to be vindicated, at least not fully. I wanted her to be as messy and complicated as the show had already clearly made her to be.

Looking back now, I had no reason to worry. Of course the Crewniverse wouldn’t gloss over Rose’s crimes or the position of privilege she occupied if she was, in fact, Pink Diamond. If anything, Rose and Pink Diamond being the same person has increased the complication of Steven’s current existence. He’s no longer adjacent to the struggle between Homeworld and Earth. He’s no longer a passive observer of the systems of oppression that Homeworld perpetuated. Rose, his mother, wasn’t just a rebel, she was a diamond. And that means Steven is a diamond.

While there are significant implications for literally every character on the show, I’m most impressed by the delicacy and nuance thus far. Far from out of the blue, the reveal is well-seeded and the payoff enormous. I have no qualms saying this is Steven Universe’s Red Wedding moment. It changes everything, but makes perfect sense. It makes you watch, or rewatch, differently. And I must say, as someone who never romanticized Rose/Pearl, I’m really, really glad I never invested in it. All we have now is time to unpack the implications for everybody, including Pearl, but I’m 100% convinced it will just as messy as I want it to be.

All in all, very satisfied and excited to see what comes next.


Julia:

I’m the kind of reader/viewer who tends to accept twist and plot points as they come, and not really question what could or should have been. This is mostly because I never see this kind of stuff coming. Oh, in retrospect it’s always obvious, and that’s what makes a good twist good, but successful theorycrafting has always eluded me, even the very few times that I’ve indulged in it. Like several other have said, I’ve seen this theory around for a while, but it was never differentiated in my mind from the hundreds of other in the galaxy of SU crack theories.

All that being said, I love what this reveal has already done for the characters and the way I see the world building. Steven has been struggling with his personal responsibility for his mother and her actions when he thought she was a rebel, and now she was the oppressor too? Heavy stuff. And Steven is more than insightful enough to ask all the questions about her character and motives, and all her relationships with her “friends” that the fans have been asking for the past few weeks.


Antoine:

“A Single Pale Rose” shattered me, and I’m still trying to pick up the broken shards of myself. I was absolutely devastated over what it meant for the rebellion narrative I was rooting for, but specifically for Pearl. Because this means Pearl was always her slave.

So many gems (and humans too) suffered: Lapis, Bismuth, Jasper. Then you have the unnamed gem casualties: all the other bubbled Rose Quartzes, the broken rebels rape-tortured into forced fusions, all the gems who were corrupted. The, there’s the creepy human zoo, and the Cluster. God, the Cluster. I can’t stop thinking about them all.

I know Rose and Pearl didn’t see it coming—that’s what war-flashback-Pearl inside Pearl basically reveals… But still. Devastating.

It felt like Garnet’s beautiful message: “Rose had to shatter PD so I could be together and Pearl could be free” got thrown out into the vacuum of space. Pearl was NEVER free, and Garnet didn’t even know it. No wonder Sapphire breaks apart in the preview for the future episodes (yeah I feel you, Sapphire). Remember her reaction to the forced fusion experiments? That’s on you too, Rose.

I used to be a strong believer in the Rose=PD theory, until the direction of the show took me elsewhere prior to this episode. I got used to the idea that she was like Rey: a nobody rather than secret royalty on the run. Not Leia or Sailor Moon, no matter how much I like them. I thought it was about the rebellion. But now it feels like it was less about love or freedom, and more about Rose having fun and doing what she likes and wants without thinking of the consequences. AS ALWAYS.

I always resented Rose for various reasons, but this is worse than anything else. At least now I guess I feel vindicated in that I was always right: Rose was a selfish monster.


David:

And that just leaves me. What do I think of the episode? At first, I was aghast. I had always hated the ‘Rose is Pink Diamond’ theory, whenever it cropped up. I thought it was, at best, a crack theory. At worst I thought it was lazy writing. But as I re-watched the episode with a few of my friends, my opinion on both the theory and its implementation changed. It was, and has been always about one thing:

Love.

Rose Quartz loved the earth. She thought her sisters didn’t love her, which is why she thought they would just walk away if Pink Diamond was shattered. The other diamonds so loved their ‘dead’ sister that they brought ruin down on the earth, and then damned it to a slow death. And Rose so loved Greg and Steven she gave up her life so that he could exist. She has made mistakes, but I think the true image of Rose Quartz we should keep in our heads is the one from “Lion 3: Straight to Video.” A woman who loved everything, while never really loving any one person. If the Crewniverse can keep this up, the show is in good hands.

So there you have it. Seven different takes on the same episode. It speaks well of the show that even after five years, one episode can spawn so much discussion. I personally hope they can keep this track record up so we can have more to discuss and debate and argue about in the future.


Images courtesy of Cartoon Network

Author

  • David

    David is a dental hygienist by day, gamer by night. He enjoys making character sheets when bored, and re-reading the same book for the twentieth time.

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