This week, Steven Universe came back from its break to bring us a Steven Bomb, where Cartoon Network airs a new episode every night of the week. This Steven Bomb wasn’t as extensive as some previous ones since this one only lasted for four days. But, in any case, new Steven Universe of any kind is a gift to behold.
With that being that said, however, these series of episodes- “Steven’s Dream”, “Adventures in Light Distortion”, “Gem Heist”, “The Zoo”, and “That Will Be All”- were mildly underwhelming. It was great, in the way that Steven Universe so often is, but these episodes are so devoted to being part of a story arc that it sometimes runs into the danger of losing itself.
The story arc is plainly that Steven (Zach Callison) begins having dreams that leads him and his dad, Greg (Tom Scharpling), to Korea (side note: there’s no mention to North or South Korea. Maybe Korea isn’t divided in this Gem version of reality?) in search of a Palanquin that might hold answers for Steven. When they arrive, they find Blue Diamond saying goodbye to Pink’s colony Earth and still mourning her having been shattered by Rose. Deciding that she wants to save one last living thing of Pink’s before the Cluster emerges, Blue kidnaps Greg and takes him aboard her hand-ship. Steven and the Crystal Gems realize that she’s taken Greg to a space station called The Zoo, where Gems keep humans for study and general captivity.
The through line of this Steven Bomb was, or should have been, that Steven’s near obsessive desire to search for answers was not only counter-productive but actively did harm to those around him. This is more or less discarded thematically past the first two episodes.
At a certain point, these episodes became much more interested in the world building of the Gems, The Zoo, and Blue Diamond than of the emotional implications of Steven’s rash decisions, which isn’t bad. It just didn’t feel like what it was building to.
The world building itself does bring up an interesting question: the Diamonds, the elitest of elite Gems, believe that the Cluster- the giant bioweapon at the center of the Earth’s core that Steven helped bubble- is still set to emerge and destroy the Earth. At a certain point The Diamonds are going to notice that the Cluster has, in fact, not emerged and the Earth is still there, setting the stage for the Gem War to resume. The Diamonds still don’t have reason or testimony from anyone to suggest that the Crystal Gems are still protecting the Earth, but it’s only a matter of time before Blue or Yellow Diamond finds it suspicious that the Cluster hasn’t emerged and goes to check on it personally. Perhaps this is the end-game of Steven Universe: an all-out war that engulfs the Earth.
There was a lot to love about this Steven Bomb, though, and one needs to look no further than a new song. Existing mostly as a musical lecture on grief from Yellow to Blue Diamond, and seen mostly from Greg and Steven’s point-of-view, it’s partly a repudiation and also a sobering reminder: you might hate everything that your enemy stands for, but they are still people with emotions that handle loss the same way that you handle loss and not to let that get lost in the shuffle of your own bitterness. Even the harshest of individuals aren’t immune to the shattering (pun not intended) of mourning and grief. The song itself wasn’t one of the best to come from Rebecca Sugar and Co. but it’s emotional conceptually enough that fans might find themselves revisiting it.
This Steven Bomb wasn’t as emotional, poignant, or profound as some others have been, but it hits a good serialization groove that is able to make up for it.