This was a big one for Steven Universe. It wasn’t a plot mover. No new revelations were made. No new character was introduced. What we did get was an important character moment delivered in an episode packed with wish fulfillment; not just for the audience, but Steven himself (literally). As usual, the Crewniverse knocked it out of the park and delivered the kind of moment-to-moment emotional whiplash they specialize in. Along the way “Storm in the Room” also ended one chapter of Steven Universe just before a new one will likely begin.
Betchen has unfused for the week, that’s okay. Just because Sapphire’s gone doesn’t mean Ruby stops being awesome, and I’m here to fill all your Steven Universe recap needs. So let’s get to it, because we have feels to talk about.
Spoilers for 4×17 “Storm in the Room” below
The episode starts with Steven and Connie alone in the temple house. Steven thanks Connie for protecting Beach City and Connie officially relinquishes his bed back to him. These two are so cute. The gems are helping Greg put his new car wash sign up. Steven says it might take them a while because “you wouldn’t believe how many of them it takes to screw in a light bulb.”
Burn, Steven Universe. Wicked burn.
Connie worries because her mom is late to pick her up, but Steven is happy because they can spend more time together. When Connie insists on not imposing, since he just got back from space and probably wants some time alone, but Steven says the last thing he needs is more space.
Steven tries his best to involve Connie in wordplay, but she worriedly checks her phone the entire time. Her mom never runs late and NEVER fails to answer her phone. Steven offers her a ride home on Lion but Connie isn’t worried about getting home. She worries about her mom. Their next attempt at mad libs leads to Connie freaking out about the possibility of her mom in an accident. She manages to calm herself by using the techniques Garnet taught Stevonnie.
Dr. Maheswaran comes bursting into the house a moment later, just as panicked as Connie had been. Like mother, like daughter. They have a nice hug while Connie’s mom tells her about delays at the hospital and her phone dying. Dr. Maheswaran thanks Steven and Connie says goodbye. As they leave her mother asks about Steven being back from the spa, and Connie corrects her that Steven returned from space.
So apparently she really does tell her mother everything about the gems now. I can’t believe Priyanka is so okay with Connie and gem stuff.
Now Steven is home alone and obviously bothered by it. He takes a shower, finally changes his clothes (notice the lingering shot on the earrings from the zoo), and space ovens a bowl of mac and cheese. When he can’t stop glancing at the picture of his mother above the door, he moves outside to eat. A storm immediately forces him back inside.
Once there Steven again ends up staring at his mother’s portrait. He wonders about who his mother really is. He says he wants to know the truth. His gem glows and the door to Rose’s room opens. I would call it his room, but he doesn’t really consider it as such. That’s still very much Rose’s room. Once inside he shyly says he wants to see his mom.
And let the good old-fashioned Steven Universe feels begin.
The room forms Rose and for the first time, we get her and Steven on screen together. An imaginary Rose, but I’ll take it. She acts much like the imaginary Connie back during “Open Book,” where she parrots Steven’s interests and does whatever he says he wants to do. They play video games, throw a football, and Rose pulls a Lucy on poor Charlie Universe when he tries to kick it. That’s the most evil thing a Rose Quartz has ever done.
Afterwards, Steven talks about how much he thinks of his mother lately. How he heard so many stories about how wonderful she is. He says he used to look at the portrait of her and feel inspired, as well as reminded about the example he had to live up to. He even says he considered dying his hair pink.
All throughout Rose acts just like the best image of Rose you can imagine. Everything is beautiful and unique and wonderful. She gives a speech about the beauty of all sports while catching a football that might be the best thing in Steven Universe history. She is exactly the mom Steven wanted. It’s really beautiful and happy, even if everyone realizes she’s not real. I really didn’t care while watching.
When Steven attempts to take a selfie, however, he only sees himself in a dark room. He realizes Rose only represents the person he wants her to be, not the person she was. All the frustration finally reaches a boiling point and Steven unloads all his frustration on Rose. He blames her for dumping the consequences of her mistakes onto him and the other Crystal Gems. He says he realized she’s a liar and asks how she could abandon everyone who loved her.
In the end he wonders if he only exists because Rose wanted to run from her mistakes. All the while a storm rages inside the room, and she floats above the ground with her face hidden in shadows.
Rose descends to tell him that’s not true. The storm clears. She reminds him of the videotape she left him and asks if he thinks she lied in it. Steven says that he knows she told the truth. He knows she meant well and she’s with him, and he has to deal with what she left behind. Rose dissipates and Steven leaves the room.
So, not complete progress but it’s something.
Thankfully, Greg and the gems arrive with pizza just in time to cheer the poor kid up. The pizza only has mushrooms on it, though, and Greg hopes that’s alright. Steven says it’s perfect.
Aw, he’s learning to appreciate all pizza.
Delightful Little Gems
- Rose almost feels a little bit real. Like maybe the room has some imprint of her leftover that helped make her a little more realistic than imaginary Connie was.
- Those earrings might double as tracking devices. It would be a good way for the Diamonds to find Beach City.
- I know I already mentioned it, but I love how the Maheswarans know all about the extraordinary activities Connie does with the gems and apparently support it. You could never have convinced me that would happen back when we met them.
- The nature of the rooms within the temple continues to elude me. It’s really just nothing but darkness all around? That’s what the phone suggests.
- How did all the gems show up at the end and none of them said a word? Amethyst had to have some wisecrack in mind.
- Apparently people don’t like mushrooms on pizza? That makes me sad. Steven Universe promotes acceptance and love of all pizza.
In many ways “Storm in the Room” gave closure for Steven and his feelings about Rose. These feelings have always existed. Much of season 1 centered on his struggles with living up to the reputation of his mother. Season 2 and early in season 3 showed his issues with her absence. Ever since Eyeball flashes her eye ruby on the Pink Diamond mural, Steven has increasingly learned truths about his mother which directly contradicted her reputation. As he hit adolescence and developed his powers, he increasingly felt her absence in his life.
Many episodes have focused on the truths he learned. “Bismuth” introduced him to the dark secrets Rose kept. “Back to the Moon” introduced the truth of Pink Diamond’s demise. Multiple episodes since have displayed his struggles with this dichotomy, most notably in “Mindful Education,” where he could no longer bury the traumas he has experienced while dealing with the consequences of Rose’s actions.
The human zoo arc brought these issues up yet again in the form of Blue Diamond’s grief. The Fandomentals has covered Steven’s empathy numerous times. Empathy is his defining trait. He feels the pain of others and wants to take it away. Experiencing Blue Diamond’s grief so personally took a considerable toll on his feelings about Rose and Pink Diamond. How can it be right to shatter someone who someone else loved so much? How could the person the Crystal Gems describe do that?
Combined with his already complicated feelings about her absence, the incidents with Eyeball and Bismuth, and the many burdens thrust upon him because of her actions, poor Steven was bound to crack eventually. “Storm in the Room” really did a great job displaying his conflicted feelings and delivered one of Steven Universe’s best, most emotional episodes yet.
It also showed that Steven hasn’t quite taken the lessons of “Mindful Education” to heart quite like Connie has. Yes, I know we bring this episode up often. There’s a reason we do, besides it being one of the best episodes in Steven Universe history.
When Connie reached a panic point worrying about her mother, she remembered Garnet’s advice in a way suggesting she has actively practiced that advice. She took her moment and calmed herself. She faced her fears and accepted them. Steven spent the beginning of the episode refusing to do the same thing. He adamantly did not want to be alone. When his eyes kept drifting to Rose’s portrait, he literally hid from it.
This is nothing new from him, of course. Steven runs from his own feelings often, especially regarding Rose. He even tries to hide from his feelings when imaginary Rose stares him in the face. Rather than ask the questions on his mind which prompted the room to open, he seeks the idealized mother he wants rather than the truth of her. This is a telling moment, where Steven specifically asks for something and when given an (albeit fake) chance to get it, he still avoids.
Hiding only works for so long, though, and eventually his frustration and despair boils over.
I can’t blame Steven for the fears he reveals; many kids grow up seeing their parents are perfect and learning hard truths is not easy, especially when those truths directly contradict the traits everyone defines your mother by. With each new mistake Steven understandably felt like he was Rose’s way of escaping, her way of avoiding consequences of her mistakes. I worried the episode would end with this continued piling on to Rose which makes her look like an awful person.
When imaginary Rose brought up the videotape she left for Steven, it made me very happy. Steven and the fandom have increasingly lost sight of the truth of Rose due to the focus on her lesser moments. For all her mistakes we know one thing for sure about Rose Quartz; her good intentions. She fought for Earth to free it from an oppressive, destructive force. She cared deeply for her friends. Everything Rose did, she did out of appreciation for the beauty of Earth and a strong desire to protect that beauty.
She was not perfect. No one is. Too often children’s cartoons use the idealization of dead mothers to drive tragic backstories for their characters. Steven Universe has worked hard to avoid doing the same. In the process, unfortunately, both Steven and the fans have lost sight of the good in Rose’s character. Ultimately, she was a good person with good intentions who loved those close to her.
Rose had no reason to run from her mistakes. Judging by the reaction of the Crystal Gems to Peridot, none of them expected Homeworld to return. Homeworld left in a hurry, unleashes the corruption bomb, and never came back for some 5,000 years. Rose did not give birth to Steven to hide from her mistakes. At worst she thought him more capable of fixing them. And most of all she loved Greg, loved humanity, and wanted Steven as a symbol of her love for both.
Was she somewhat selfish to leave him and the Crystal Gems without their leader? Perhaps. I won’t argue too much about that, especially since they were so seemingly unprepared for her departure. Still, Rose had the best of intentions. She just didn’t think it through. Like any other gem she lacks the emotional understanding of her actions. Rose was still learning, just like the Crystal Gems continue to learn during Steven’s life.
“Storm in the Room” did not create a total peace in Steven’s mind about his mother. It did, however, show him begin to come to grips with his mother as a person rather than an ideal. He can now find the middle between the two extremes of the rebel fighter and the woman his father fell in love with. Hopefully Steven Universe fans can do the same.
I’m sure we’ll see this come up again. The complicated feelings Steven has for his mother will never truly disappear. For now, though, I think he is ready to move on into the next chapter. And Steven Universe is ready to move on with him.
And good timing, because there are Diamonds looking to kidnap human beings.