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“Familiar” Introduces Homeworld and a Familiar Dynamic

Can it be? It is! Steven Universe is back! And on a weekly schedule! Last week kicked off the first episode of the “Diamond Days” event with the first TV airing of “Legs From Here to Homeworld” a mere half-year after its release on the Cartoon Network App. Been there, done that. This week we get a new episode to finally show us the aftermath of White Diamond’s reveal and Steven’s arrival on Homeworld. We also (finally) find out just what the hell the song “Familiar” is and who sings it. Have the fans not been talking about this song for like a year?

Let’s dive into things.

familiar steven and pearls

Recap

Finally, we get to see what happens after Steven teleports to Pink’s chambers! He looks around for a second, and starts asking for things like a bed and a chair. They pop out of the ground, seemingly controlled by a bunch of super tiny gems in the walls and floors. Steven thanks them, and this makes them realize Steven is Pink. Ouch, that’s sad.

These gems introduce themselves as Pebbles. They rule.

Pearl arrives, allowed to bring Steven his things since she counts as one of his things. Ouch again. Everyone else remained on the ship. Yellow Pearl shows up moments later requesting “Pink Diamond’s” presence on behalf of Yellow Diamond. Along the way, they see walls that have faces and speak. They arrive at Yellow Diamond’s “extraction chamber” and after a bit of mean fun regarding what Yellow Pearl calls Steven, he goes inside.

Turns out the extraction chamber is a sauna, and I love it. They talk a bit about Steven’s brief conversation with White Diamond, and Yellow gets a bit jealous that Steven got to talk to her at all. Appointment time, and Yellow drains her “essence” into the floor before leaving. Blue Pearl shows up, and it’s time to meet with Blue Diamond. Along the way, OG Pearl explains how Yellow is always busy because she controls basically everything regarding the conquering and running of her colonies.

Rather than a sauna, Blue Diamond has a pool. She talks about how “Pink” hasn’t changed and how happy she is. She even uses Steven’s name, but just as a moniker rather than any acknowledgement that Steven isn’t Pink. Blue talks about all the fun the 4 Diamonds used to have together, and how things changed after Pink’s death. Then she has an appointment as well and leaves.

Also, her pool drains into the floor, too.

Back in Pink’s chambers, Pearl talks about how Pink’s responsibilities basically consisted of throwing parties for the other Diamonds. Then she takes off and Steven wonders about who Pink was and why things feel familiar. This leads to a pretty great song where Steven thinks this situation feels exactly like it used to feel with the Crystal Gems, back before he proved himself. He decides to fully adopt his role as “Pink Diamond,” including wearing her clothes, and bring the Diamonds together like he did the Crystal Gems. Oh, Steven.

Pearl returns with the other Crystal Gems, and Steven relays his plan to bring the Diamonds to his side: a party! After all, Steven was in the exact same spot as Pink. What could go wrong? Oh, buddy. So, so much. Join us next week when everything goes wrong.

Delightful Little Gems

  • PINK LASAGNA.
  • The Pebbles seem to be a Pink creation alone. Steven brings one to life with a tear while singing his song.
  • I love the mental image of Pink practicing her singing so much that the Pebbles learned how to chime in, and that’s why their contributions to Steven’s song were so good. Come to think of it, the Pearls did the same thing when Yellow Diamond sang. Maybe the ruling classes of Homeworld are just always breaking into song.
  • Yellow Diamond has hundreds of colonies. That’s a LOT of space under Homeworld’s control if Blue and White have similar numbers.
  • Pink Diamond was the Arianne Martell of the Diamonds, tasked with throwing parties by her “parents” and never receiving larger responsibilities. And then she started a half-baked rebellion. I gotta say, if George RR Martin takes a PD route with Arianne, I wouldn’t be mad.
  • I desperately need to see Pink juggling.
  • Pearl’s protectiveness of Yellow Pearl was adorable and a subtle way to point out the meanness of Steven’s taunts.

Lingering Thoughts

  • Um, does Rose’s Room have Pebbles? Is this how it manifests everything?
  • Steven and Pearl fell into a familiar Diamond/Pearl dynamic way too easily.
  • Homeworld architecture is really perfect. It has this perfect mix of ancient Earth and totally alien design.
  • So, harvesting might just be making gems into buildings and everyday items like hair brushes. Is it possible that actual gems get turned into bigger things, like buildings or power generators or something?
  • What in the world does Diamond “essence” power? Where do Yellow’s “sweat” and Blue’s pool water go? They were called extraction rooms, and Yellow said they were new. Why?

Review

It’s good to have Steven Universe back. Especially when it comes back with such a heavy dose of Homeworld lore.

I don’t know where to start. “Familiar” was packed to the gills with images and dialogue to parse through. The Diamonds, Pearls, Homeworld architecture and structure, everything about this strange new alien setting received the kind of exposure the fans have waited years for. I can’t remember the last time this show gave us so much new information to analyze. Which, you know, is saying something when the last episode freaking revealed White Diamond.

As usual, SU managed a captivating blend of charm and pure terror. There was something exceptionally enjoyable about Yellow Diamond chilling in a sauna and Blue’s stories about the Great Diamond Authority playing games in a pool. Steven’s interactions with both gave us insight into these characters we never had before. We got a real picture of what used to be a family, and how they were torn apart by Pink’s death.

It is disturbingly easy to see Steven chill with his giant kind-of moms and start to love them. Then you see the living walls and singing hair brush and you’re pulled out of this familial fantasy, back into the harsh, oppressive truth of Homeworld and its rulers. You can’t help but realize the folly of the song “Familiar” and Steven’s idea to throw a party bringing everyone together. Because the Diamonds are not the Crystal Gems. Whatever surface similarities may exist between Steven’s early relationship with the CG and Pink’s with the Diamonds, significant differences exist that doom Steven’s efforts to failure.

To be fair, there are similarities. Both situations have a considerably younger person viewed and treated as a child. Both Steven and Pink craved more responsibility. The Crystal Gems and the Diamonds both grieved badly over a loss until Steven managed to fill the void left by said loss. They also share the same lack of understanding regarding Steven and Pink. It’s an interesting comparison. I see how easy it is for Steven to assume he can “fix” the Diamonds like he “fixed” the Crystal Gems. I also see how the wary among the Steven Universe fandom, and especially the critics, would see this as the show excusing Homeworld’s tyranny. Comparisons to the Crystal Gems creates excuses for apology the Diamonds don’t deserve.

This seemingly sets up everything they fear: the crimes of the Diamonds being ignored or glossed over so Steven can talk them into an easy redemption.

I feel 100% sure this won’t happen. The Diamonds are not the Crystal Gems, and every disturbing moment throughout “Familiar” was there to remind you of that simple fact, even if Steven was too wrapped up in his mission to recognize it. The Crystal Gems, whatever their beliefs back in season 1, rebelled against everything Homeworld stands for. They were receptive to Steven in ways the Diamonds will not be. Steven can’t just throw a party to make the Diamonds see the error of their ways because the Diamonds are not capable of understanding there’s any error to their ways.

Right now, Steven is making the exact same mistake he made back in season 1 with the Crystal Gems. He tried so hard to be Rose Quartz. His only focus was replacing his mother and living up to what she did and what she would do in his place. It wasn’t until he became his own person, making his own choices, that he became what the Crystal Gems needed. Now, he’s doing the same thing with the Diamonds. He is following Pink Diamond’s lead and trying to replace her in their lives. It won’t work any better than the first time.

Until the Diamonds can see how the existence they’ve lived for thousands (millions?) of years is wrong, all Steven’s doing is shouting in the wind and setting himself up for disappointment.

I think “Familiar” did a wonderful job maintaining exactly that undercurrent throughout all the discovery of Homeworld. It was a typically effective Steven Universe episode that packed as much storytelling as visually and audibly possible into every scene. Every moment was full of discovery and lore and a bit of wonder at the newness of everything. I immediately loved the Pebbles. I loved the Pearls. Yellow Diamond and Blue Diamond in saunas and pools was amazing. And of course the song was amazing as ever.

But then the wall would have eyes and Steven would mock a Pearl, and I’d remember everything wrong with Homeworld and those who rule it. I don’t know how Steven’s party will go. One thing I am sure of is that it will go badly. Or at least, it won’t go like Steven wants. Maybe either Yellow or Blue will be kind of open to his ideas, or entertain them. Maybe both of them. Will either of them change? Absolutely not. And then we’ll see what happens.


Images Courtesy of Cartoon Network

Bo
Written By

Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and continues drifting wearily through the slog of summer TV.

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