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Stranded Put the Bomb in ‘Steven Bomb’

Steven Universe is back, and you know what that means, Betchen—the fusion of Bo and Gretchen—is here to gush about it! And speaking of fusions, this double feature has graced us with the return of Stevonnie, or should we call them Stubbonnie? That was some mighty fine stubble they were sporting and we’re 100% here for it. Plus, we got more Lars, Off-Colors, and another diamond to wildly speculate about discuss in the inevitable hiatus until we get more episodes. Without further ado, let’s dive into the “Stranded” two-parter!

Spoilers for 5×11 “Lars of the Stars” and 5×12 “Jungle Moon” below

Recap

It’s Steven and Connie! In space! It was so weird to watch this without the audience reactions from the leaked clip. With Lars still stuck off Earth, Steven and Connie embark on a mission to deliver a care package to their wayward friend. Connie’s super excited, even when Steven tries to temper her enthusiasm with exposition about Lars’s current whereabouts. They jump into Lion’s mane, but not before Lion housecats adorably. Naturally, Lion is adorable.

One of Gretchen’s cats does this. She confirms it is impossible to resist.

When they emerge out the other side (still not over the image of things emerging from Lars’s hair), they find Lars not only perfectly okay, but commanding a stolen gem starship called the Sun Incinerator! The Off-Colors are his crew and still as wonderful as ever. Steven and Connie don’t get much of a chance to catch up, though, because a gem admiral named Emerald who he stole the ship from is hot on the Sun Incinerator’s tail. She’s the best Power Rangers villain ever.

Lars taunts her until the ship’s ready to jump to lightspeed go hyperspeed and escape. Afterward, Connie gets to meet everyone. Lars explains how the Off Colors figured out how to get off Homeworld while Lars’s ability to bypass Homeworld tech allowed them to actually enact the plan. Connie hands over Lars’s care package. This leads him to eventually think about Sadie and ask how she’s doing.

When Steven tells Lars about Sadie’s new rock star life, he’s upset that she’s doing so well without him. He thinks Sadie is just hanging out with the Cool Kids to get back at him. His sorrow distracts him as an enemy ship begins catching up on them. Steven tells him about how sad Sadie was, and how she needed something else to move past her grief, just like he’s trying so hard to get home. He would never hurt her.

Just like Steven and Connie, they’re…best friends! Steven and Connie fuse and Stevonnie returns! Complete with Lars blushing, as always. That Stevonnie, so hot right now.

Emerald’s ship catches up and she threatens to destroy their ship if they don’t surrender. Lars welcomes her attempt and even tells Rhodonite to lower their shields. When Emerald shoots she barely grazes the Sun Incinerator. Lars realizes Emerald would never destroy the Incinerator because she loves it too much (the ship is her “best friend” after all). Emerald admits it but can still stop them from escaping by destroying their ability to go hyperspeed.

Lars has a plan to use a smaller fighter to destroy the enemy ship’s cannons while the Off-Colors fix their ship, and Stevonnie volunteers to pilot. It’s everything we ever dreamed of. Stevonnie totally kicks ass and destroys the cannons. On the way back, though some missiles catch up and knock the ship out of space. Stevonnie no!

Their ship loses communications with Lars before he can figure out where they are, and crashes on a nearby moon. Stevonnie is okay thanks to their bubble power. They find the remains of the ship’s cockpit and try to call Lars again, but it loses power. With no way to get off planet, they are left to try and survive. They hunt, collect food, build shelters, and grow awesome survival stubble.

Looking fly, Stubbonnie.

While Stevonnie debates whether to kill and eat a baby bird blob, a parent bird blob shows up and chases after them. They take refuge in a nearby tower and decide to use it for shelter. They dream themselves back into what looks like a super-sized version of Connie’s house, and a super-sized version of Connie’s mom Priyanka ascends from the floor, giving orders about colonizing a planet over the phone. Stevonnie tries and fails to get her attention.

Eventually they climb up on Dr. Maheswaran’s shoulder to interrupt her. The good doctor pulls her off and shifts into an image of Yellow Diamond, with the house changing to a Diamond base on the jungle moon sometime in the past. Homeworld ships head towards the moon’s planet in the distance. Stevonnie starts demanding their own dropships while Yellow ignores them. When Yellow begins contacting the leader of the fleet going towards the planet, Stevonnie starts messing with the display because they want to control the ships.

Stevonnie then begins demanding her own planet, army, and colony, because they’re just as important as Yellow. Yellow says, “Then why don’t you act like it, Pink!”

Yeah, you can see where this is going. Stevonnie shuffles off angrily, makes a fist, and when they look in the reflection of the glass in front of them we see…Pink Diamond! It’s her! It’s actually her! She smashes the glass in front of her and Stevonnie wake up from the dream. They notice a Yellow Diamond mural and realize they’re in a moon base just like the one on Earth’s moon.

Climbing up to the top of the tower, they find Yellow’s chair and terminal and use it to contact Lars. Big bird blob shows up and tries to break into the base, but Lars’s ship shows up to scare it off first. Stevonnie’s ready to go home, but not before one last glimpse of the broken spot Pink punched.

Delightful Little Gems

  • The Star Skipper’s targeting HUD says Bingo Bongo and identifies incoming missiles with NO. Amazing.
  • Like Amethyst, Pink Diamond is “deep cut” meaning her gem is taller than it is wide. This may explain why she’s so short, just like Amethyst. Or was she? More on the potential unreliability of the dream later.
  • We love how Connie’s survival instincts took control of Stevonnie on the jungle moon. She probably loved growing that stubble and admired it on every reflective surface.
  • The diamond on Beach City’s money is Pink’s diamond. The lore goes deep, yo.
  • Yellow Pearl took work selfies with Yellow in the background. What a nerd.
  • The image of Nephrite on Priyellow’s (Priyanka Maheswaran +Yellow) phone looked remarkably similar to the stick figure drawings Centipeedle drew. Is this what Centi is? Bismuth did mention a Nephrite pilot and well, take a look at a nephrite gem.
  • That bird blob monster has got to be one of the most ridiculous and adorable creations the Crewniverse has ever made. Gretchen lost it when it started blorping away at the end. #EvenBetterThanPorgs

BEST. ALIEN. EVER.

  • Is it just us or did “best friends!!!!!” feel like a giant middle finger to gal-pal-ing? It’s not like controversy would come from calling them boyfriend and girflriend after all. Lars and Sadie are just best friends, you guys! Totally not a couple at all!
  • The background art in “Jungle Moon” is gorgeous. Just…breathtaking.
  • Did you catch how Padparadscha was the only Off Color who knew Emerald missed on purpose? Her predictions have always been played as a joke, but the ability to accurately predict the past and know exactly what happened and why can be incredibly useful.

Lingering Questions

  • Pink’s diamond is placed differently: we see a side view rather than a face view, as with the other diamonds. Does this mean she was defective somehow? Is she somehow an ‘off-color’ gem?
  • Is there a significance to the code sequence Yellow enters? White -> Yellow -> Blue -> Pink -> White? Gretchen has theorized in the past that White Diamond is actually a fusion of all three of the other diamonds (since blue, pink, and yellow are the primary colors in the CMYK color wheel used for printing). That theory makes sense to her as explaining why Peridot’s ship in S1 had a new sigil with blue, yellow, and green diamonds rather than the four diamond sigil from prior to Pink being shattered. The sequence could come from that idea—white breaks down into yellow, blue, and pink then ‘fuses’ back into white—or it could mean there’s a second white diamond out there somewhere (bubbled in the temple perhaps?). Or it could mean nothing. It’s Steven Universe so it’s fun to speculate!
  • Yellow Diamond was revealed in January 2016, Blue in January 2017, and now Pink in January 2018. Does this mean we have to wait a whole year for White?? With how long Cartoon Network hiatuses are, probably.

Review

Don’t worry, we’ll get to Pink Diamond, but first we want to talk about Lars. Seeing Lars in charge, confident, and leading a group of misfits in shenanigans across the galaxy is so satisfying. Plus, he was so extra he might as well be a Skywalker. He’s had one of the most compelling character developments in the past season. Being a captain is just one more step for him. Yet, we still get glimpses of his vulnerability underneath when it comes to Sadie. His hurt that she’s happy with her life echoes what we saw last episode with Steven and Connie. He’s so overcome with sadness at the thought of Sadie moving on he literally almost kills them all. He might put on a brave face but he’s still the same Lars in many ways.

But even that scene represents Lars’ growth. You would never have guessed that tough guy™ Lars from S1 would be openly weeping in front of friends and relative strangers about being afraid his girlfriend best friend might not like or need him any more. He couldn’t even admit that Sadie mattered to him, much less that she was the most important person in his life when we first met him. Not to mention that he openly appreciates his family’s care package and totally owns ‘bingo bongo’ now. Lars has come so far, and it’s been so beautiful to watch.

*Sniff* Our baby is growing up so fast!

Steven Universe has never been shy with allusions to other films, tv shows, books, and comics. In “Lars of the Stars” there are clear hat tips to the manga/anime series Space Captain Pirate Harlock. It’s not even subtle.

Really not subtle.

Even the plot summary of the Captain Harlock sounds familiar. Subjugation by a foreign invader? An outlaw crew raiding against Earth’s oppressors? A race of organic plant-based  mineral, gem-based alien women who explored Earth in the mythic past and are now back to reclaim it? Huh. Interesting. As a side note, we’d totally watch a spinoff featuring Lars and the Off-Colors’ shenanigans against Homeworld. The things Emerald mentioned sound so cool!

Given how long they were separated in the last Steven Bomb, seeing Stevonnie together again for so long, and so comfortably, fills us with joy. We just loved that their character description in “Lars of the Stars” was no more than ‘an experience’, because that’s what makes them so special. Them saying goodnight to themselves? Adorable. Plus, we’re both super here for Stubbonnie (stubble Stevonnie). Since Stevonnie identifies as non-binary, it’s nice to see more stereotypically masculine presenting traits like facial hair alongside the more stereotypically feminine traits like long hair. That little detail, plus their sheer delight in it, goes such a long way in normalizing non-binary and gender non-conforming presentation.

And they shaved with Rose’s sword. Hardcore.

So. Pink Diamond. I mean PINK DIAMOND. We finally got to see her on screen and learn about her personality. It wasn’t a lot to go on, but we’re the Fandomentals, we analyze everything, so you can bet we didn’t take this reveal lying down. It was fun to see confirmation of the fan speculation about Pink being the lowest tier diamond. Seems the Diamond sigil itself represented the tiers of gems with White at the top, Blue and Yellow sharing the middle tier, and Pink at the bottom. Her position as the least important had been implied in the moon base art (3×24, “Back to the Moon”) where she only has one planet, Earth. Now we got to see a bit of what that looked like.

It’s interesting to note that each of the diamonds and the gems associated with them seem to have similar personality traits. Yellows tend to be arrogant, self assured, bossy, pragmatic, and self-important. Think of Yellow herself and Yellow Pearl looking down their nose at those they perceive of as inferior. Blues tend to be more subdued (unless riled), with a tendency toward melancholy, withdrawal, serenity bordering on passivity, and insightfulness. Lapis struggles with depression, Blue herself with overwhelming grief, and Sapphire withdrew into herself when upset rather than lash out like Ruby. Which brings us to the Pinks, who tend to be impulsive, independent, free-thinking, flexible, and passionate and hotheaded when riled and chill/happy-go-lucky otherwise. Amethyst, Rose, Steven, and what little we’ve seen of Pink fit into this mold. Pinks also tend toward immaturity or being overbearing when thwarted.

Pink: You have so many worlds, and I don’t even have ONE. It’s not fair! I want ONE! I want my own ARMY! I want my own PLANET! I DESERVE it. I’m just as important as YOU!

Yellow: Then why don’t you act like it, Pink?

Then you have the dual-color gems—gems who ‘mix’ the traits just as their color is a mix of the two shades. Jasper and Peridot share some of the Yellow traits, with Peridot evincing more of the arrogance, pragmatism, and self-importance whereas Jasper is bossier and self assured. But where Peridot falls into moroseness and despair, Jasper turns belligerant. She stomps her feet, punches things, and basically throws a tantrum when Smokey Quartz defeats her in “Kindergarten Kid,” more like the Pinks. Amethyst also shares the Blues tendency toward self-doubt and despair alongside her happy-go-lucky, carefree, impulsive side. She’s a mix of Blue and Pink, so that makes sense.

While some of these ideas aren’t new, seeing Pink Diamond get huffy and throw a tantrum because she wanted her own planet, army, and to be considered as equally important as Yellow showed us that traits we’ve seen Rose, Steven, and Amethyst share might go all the way to the top. We’re less compelled by the idea that Pink was still in a “child-like phase” of her development than we are by this just being who she is. Especially since we’ve seen other gems with similar traits who all happen to be Pink gems. Children look like their parents, it seems, even in gem societies.

The independent streak and desire for recognition mixed with a natural leadership ability that Pinks all seem to share may also explain why Rose, a Pink, rebelled when none of the other gems prior to her had done similarly. The ‘genetic’ (gemetic?) combination of traits unique to Pinks make for great rebels. Defiance runs deeply  in the Pinks’ facets and grooves.

Yet we know Yellow eventually caved. Pink got her colony, though she hardly seems mature enough to handle the responsibility. In fact, there seems to be a kind of parental dynamic going on with Pink and Yellow (which explains why the dream starts with Priyanka playing Yellow). If Blue and Yellow both had a parental attitude toward Pink, it would explain their reactions to her death. Yellow sings about regret and it could be she feels responsible for Pink’s death because she gave Pink a colony before she was ready. Since the colony was the cause of Pink’s death, Yellow’s visceral desire to destroy it (a visible reminder of what she might feel is her failure) makes a shit ton of sense. Same with Blue’s desire to preserve it; if she wasn’t the one to give the colony to Pink, she’d want to keep any reminder of what she lost as a kind of shrine to her dead ‘child.’

Whether or not this is true, we’re all for more complicated Diamond dynamics.

One final thing, dream logic in Steven Universe is highly significant. We’ve seen in other episodes that the Crewniverse likes to play with hidden messages or significant image-based metaphor in dreams. In Stevonnie’s dream, she’s playing the part of Pink Diamond, yet the dream ends with Pink punching the glass and a fractured/shattered reflection of herself staring back. It seems…suggestive that a Rose Quartz shatters Pink’s reflection, even if one in the guise of Pink herself. It could mean nothing, or it could be a confirmation that Rose was, in fact, responsible for Pink’s destruction at some level. Or, it could mean that the seemingly long dead theory that Rose and Pink Diamond are the same character actually has some basis after all. Who knows?

Bo has never loved the Rose = Pink Diamond (PD) theory, but this episode certainly threw gas on that fire. He’s starting to come around to the possibilities the theory offers. What if Steven has to redeem the mistakes of not only Rose Quartz, but Pink Diamond? Plus, Steven=Rose=PD gives us an opening for the Diamonds to actually listen to him and create some peace between Earth and Homeworld. We know Blue would listen, if nothing else.

Symbolism!

And if not Rose, perhaps this brief glimpse offers clues as to why the Diamonds would want Pink shattered. Gem society places a heavy emphasis on the Diamonds as perfect. They are all-knowing and all-powerful. They must be in order to keep a stranglehold on their empire and their subordinates. Yellow Diamond’s song to Blue brings this up. Considering our first view of Pink shows her to be considerably smaller than Yellow, perhaps she was imperfect in some way the other Diamonds considered an embarrassment. A rebellion is weakness enough to remove Pink. If she was a small, immature Diamond on top of it…

Or maybe she wasn’t actually so small, and her size was just a representation of how she felt in the presence of the others. After all, it was a constantly shifting dream. Very little of it may have been literal. What better way to get across Pink’s insecurities than making her so insignificant in size compared to Yellow? Maybe that’s how Pink always felt in the presence of the others. Though we did see that the punch in the glass was at Stevonnie’s level when they woke up and looked at it so. Maybe a diamond really was that small. Interesting…

There’s so much to talk about, but it’s probably time to be done for now. Hopefully Cartoon Network won’t make us wait another 5-6 months for more. Get it together, Cartoon Network. “Stranded” was awesome, but we shouldn’t be left stranded without any clue when Steven Universe will come back.


Images courtesy of Cartoon Network

Author

  • Bo

    Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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