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“Change Your Mind” A Beautiful Resolution with Flaws

So…Steven Universe did a thing. A 44-minute thing named, “Change Your Mind.” A lot happened. A LOT. Have no fear, somehow that was not a series finale. It was just a season finale packed with so much action, resolution, and finality that we can’t help but wonder if it was a series finale (or perhaps meant to serve as one had the show not been renewed). It was a thrill ride from start to finish, and one aimed delivering an important message about acceptance, abuse, family, identity, expectations, post-traumatic stress, and so much more that we can’t really dive into.

We’re Gretchen and Bo, and we’re going to try our hardest to discuss what we need to about this stunning, beautiful, messy episode of Steven Universe.

For real, where do we even begin? So much happened deserving of its own attention. Blue and Yellow fighting, then defecting. Diamond ship Voltron. White Diamond’s powers. Lapis and Peridot’s new looks. Three separate new fusions, including FINALLY seeing Obsidian, the fusion of Steven, Amethyst, Pearl, and Garnet and most metal thing of all time. The curing of the corrupted gems. On and on and on and on.

METAL AF.

We think there’s only one real place to start, though, and that’s with Steven himself.

“Change Your Mind” was the culmination of everything he has struggled with since the very first episode. He tried so hard to live up to what everyone else wants him to be, and his perceived responsibility to live up to the example of Rose Quartz/Pink Diamond. Even when he finally began coming into his own, arcs involving his responsibility for Pink’s crimes came into play. His development has been defined by the pressure of being his mother’s son.

This led to considerable identity issues for Steven. Is he Rose? Is he Pink? Is he a gem deep down or a human? Or both? What should he be? Every time he seemed accepting of his individuality, something would happen or some revelation would become known that threw his sense of self into chaos again. Even this arc on Homeworld has seen Steven trying to be Pink Diamond rather than himself. The Diamonds tried to reduce him simply to another puppet form Pink hid behind.

Now, with the resolution of “Change Your Mind,” Steven stands at his absolute strongest sense of identity. His gem was removed in some of the sickest foreshadowing we all wished not to see. Rather than revealing some secret Pink Diamond plot or invalidating Steven’s existence, it did the opposite.

In what is probably the best (and most beautifully animated) sequence in Steven Universe history, the ‘old’ Pink Diamond does not reform as Pink Diamond. Instead we get explicit confirmation that Steven has never been anyone but himself. He is validated in the best of ways, as his gem reforms into an ultra-powerful version of himself that rejects White Diamond’s power and reunites with Steven’s physical body. He has been, is, and will always be Steven Universe. Not Rose or Pink or anyone else.

It’s a beautiful message that extends into the larger resolving theme of the episode, and really the entire show to date. One of the most powerful moments of the sequence involves the expressionless, emotionless Pink Steven only showcasing emotion when human Steven embraces him. That one moment summarizes the entirety of what this episode was about, both for Steven—wholeheartedly embracing and loving himself—and the Diamonds—only learning how to feel once they’ve been reached out to and embraced by Steven. Blue admits to weaponizing her sorrow once Steven talks to her. Yellow admits to weaponizing her anger once Steven and Blue reach out to her (and when she talks to White, who we’ll get to in a second). It’s a powerful message about the healing power of compassion, empathy, and reaching out.

As a side note, if you listen to the scene with Steven dancing with himself, you can pick out the notes to the music that underlay Rose’s message to Steven about her loving him every time he loved himself. That’s…a whole lot of feelings right there.

Steven is far from the only character who ends the episode with a newfound confidence of self. We could honestly sit here and just gush about Lapis and Peridot. Each of the original Crystal Gems receive new forms fully embracing their growth over the course of the show. We see Steven fuse with Pearl and Garnet for the first time. Blue and Yellow finally confront their misery and fight against it. Connie is at her absolute best. Even Sadie and Lars finally get to introduce their new selves to each other.

We’ve watched all these characters become the people they are for 5 seasons, and “Change Your Mind” was a gift of true discovery and acceptance. The Obsidian fusion was the ultimate evidence of the loving bonds these characters have created. They could never have sustained this fusion when we met them. We doubt they could have even one season ago. Now they did it, in a fully synced dance that retained their styles, yet meshed all the same because of the love and acceptance they all have for each other.

No more Pearl and Amethyst fighting over dancing styles. No more distrust and trickery. Gone is the fighting over insecurities. The Crystal Gems are family, fully formed and at their best. And, of course, you can also see this in their new forms. We love them all.

More importantly, they love themselves. Steven Universe strives hard to promote the idea of accepting yourself. It clearly wants its audience to love who they are and believe they are beautiful.  Steven and Pink Steven reuniting was the ultimate visual metaphor for this idea of loving who you are. He has finally shed the idea of living up to any ideal of anyone else. So has Garnet, who overcame the questioning of her existence caused by the Pink Diamond reveal. Pearl has moved past her self-consuming grief over Rose. Amethyst has accepted her imperfections and found self-worth.

In the process they firmly rejected White Diamond’s philosophy of perfectionism. Besides the obvious lore implications of White Diamond referring to the other Diamonds as the imperfections she shed (so the other Diamonds all came from her in some way???), it speaks to the unhealthy attitude of the gem empire. To make the impossible achievement of perfection your goal only leads to the kind of toxic mentality which traumatizes a person. It destroyed Blue, Yellow, and White.

Just as Blue and Yellow weaponized their sorrow and anger, respectively, White weaponized her perfectionism. Blue is sad, Yellow is Angry, White has no feelings whatsoever. Or at least she tried not to. Feelings are flaws, so she repressed them all. To hold everything together—herself, her family, and her society—she retreated into her head (what a great visual metaphor) and sought to make herself free of visible flaws. Prior to her embarrassment, we could barely even make out her facial features because of how bright her light was. She was trying to make herself as monochromatic as possible, a perfect visual representation of her perfectionism.

Perhaps she even thought that perfection would prevent something as traumatizing as Pink’s death from ever happening again. It got to the point that she even literally took over the minds and bodies of gems she perceived of as having flaws she could not contain. There’s a reason why the world she creates with her weaponization is black and white (remember when the show foreshadowed this in season two???). Black and white thinking destroys nuance, creativity, and individual expression.

What it all boils down to is that when Pink faked her own death to become Rose, White’s weaponized perfectionism prevented any of the Diamonds from dealing with the loss of Pink and hurt all gemkind. Yet there’s no doubt in our minds that perfectionism was baked into the gem empire at it’s foundations. That’s why the Off-Colors have to hide (and Garnet did too, prior to Pink’s ‘death’). Heck, we see in flashbacks that Pink’s ‘antics’ were frowned upon precisely because White thought of them as flaws. Pink’s death may have led to a more violent and visible manifestation of those tendencies, but her tendency to pursue it at the expense of others wasn’t a new personality…wait for it…flaw.

That’s not how the Crystal Gems roll, and they did their best to drag the Diamonds away from that toxic mindset.

There’s also all those characters who can now find themselves for the very first time, or rediscover who they are in the aftermath of this episode. The Off-Colors have finally reached Earth. The Diamonds confront a new reality, trying to rediscover whatever it was they used to be as a family in happier days. All the corrupted gems have been healed, but not entirely. Jasper and many others still bear marks from their corruptions, reminders of their ordeals. They will have to adjust to their new realities, both internally and externally.

We really love this decision with the healed gems. It fits perfectly with the overall messaging of both this episode and Steven Universe as a whole. There is no fully erasing the ordeals of your past or the trauma you have experienced. PTSD and trauma leave scars (though usually not so visible) even if you find healing. Life builds upon life, both the joys and the tragedies, to continuously add on to the person you are. Retaining these visual reminders of corruption shows how these experiences will always stay with these gems. They will build towards something happier despite them even as they carry their scars with them.

But that’s for the future (we’ll get into this). The episode ended on a positively beautiful scene of all the Crystal Gems together on the beach. Lapis smiles on that distant shore, not alone. Peridot has shed her prejudices and embraced the beauty of Earth, literally with Pumpkin. Greg and Connie feel secure in their rightful place alongside their space rock family. And of course there are our original main characters, sitting together while Steven sings them a song.

If this was the series finale, this would be a rather acceptable place to say goodbye.

In many ways, this felt like a series finale, and not just because of how much happened. Rather, it was how fast so many things happened.

We’re not deaf to the criticisms about this episode. The Diamonds changed their behavior really fast, and in White Diamond’s case definitely too fast. We can more easily overlook Yellow and Blue coming over to Steven’s side. They’ve spent 2 seasons struggling over Pink and their roles in her fate. We’ve seen the potential for them to change. It was a bit brief for them to stand up to White here, but not too bad. And it could be seen as the beginning of a pattern of being open and honest about their dysfunctional, traumatized family patterns rather than a firm resolution.

White, though…we know nearly nothing about White. She goes from seemingly irredeemable to smiling (albeit hesitantly) on Earth within 5 minutes. Blue talks about a time where all the Diamonds had fun together and White wasn’t the overbearing tyrant she is now, but we don’t see that. We have no reason to believe the Gem empire itself functioned any differently than the one we know now, even if the Diamonds were happier. While it could be that we’re not meant to see White smiling as a sign she’s reformed so much as she’s finally able to start expressing emotions/flaws in a way she wasn’t before, that wasn’t clearly explicated enough on screen for it not to be free of implications.

Such a difference in behavior over the course of roughly 15 minutes felt jarring for a show that usually meticulously earns such story beats over seasons’ worth of careful plotting, pacing, and character work. This felt rushed.

As much as we love our new uncorrupted friends, we also think this came about a bit too quickly and did not receive the focus it should have. While we didn’t know about it at the time, gem corruption has been an arc dating back to Centipeetle in the very first episode of Steven Universe. Having every gem uncorrupted in a quick ending montage felt a little dissatisfying. Centipeetle/Nephrite especially felt a bit underwhelming given just how much focus their relationship with Steven and the trauma they suffered have been given focus previously.

We could say the same for many things about this episode. The arrival of Lars and the Off-Colors could have been its own episode. Lapis and Peridot reforming could be its own episode. Jasper could have (should have) had her own episode. Every single new fusion could have been its own episode. And we admit, we feel a little robbed of not seeing the full emotional potential of Steven fusing with Pearl and Garnet for the first time. This wasn’t just 4 episodes in one, there’s like half a season of potential content jammed into 40 minutes. Not to mention elements of potential that weren’t even explored.

We’re left wondering if this episode may have been created at a time when the Crewniverse was uncertain about the future of the show. Especially given how long the episodes take to produce (9+months) and that the multi-season renewal wasn’t announced until SDCC last year. “Change Your Mind,” and really the entire Diamond arc dating back to Reunited, has moved forward at breakneck pace. It suggests to us that the Crewniverse really pushed to resolve a lot of things as soon as possible since they may have thought the show was ending after S5. The reason is pure speculation, of course. Maybe nothing of the sort happened and the Crewniverse just ran into some pacing problems outside of fears of cancellation.

Whatever the case, there’s still plenty of potential stories moving forward, even after the movie slated to air this fall. Many today are questioning where the show can go from here. We’ve come up with a few options, though we’re sure there’s more. We do still have those newly healed gems to introduce to an audience, and they will all have potential story arcs. Who knows what Homeworld will look like now. After all, the Diamonds may not change anything and there’s still that caste system to upend and a colonizing empire to reform. Blue and Yellow have still not explicitly recognized the harm they have caused. Homeworld society could very well descend into chaos after what they just saw unfold. There could be who knows what kind of gem weapons/technology that exist on other colonies that could wreak havoc. And Jasper will definitely still have serious issues to work through.

We also heard a lot of new lore implications in this episode. We thought White Diamond clearly spoke in a way suggesting she was created for some purpose, and gemkind may have been an extension of her original purpose. What was that purpose? Who could have created White Diamond? When will we meet the sneople??? Then there’s the tidbits and hints of the other Diamonds and their creation. Add in Rose’s chest in Lion’s mane, as well.

Basically, there’s plenty Steven Universe can do from here.

For now, though, we’re going to take more time to digest everything “Change Your Mind” threw at us. And maybe write some analysis pieces. It was a substantial amount. It certainly has its flaws, but we still think it was a powerful, dramatic, amazingly entertaining episode. It reminded us of why we love Steven Universe so much.

Delightful Little Gems

  • We freaked out over the girlfriend Nephrites and married Heaven and Earth beetles. Love among Homeworld gems has always been there, just like queer romance has always existed throughout our own history.
  • Sunstone spoke only in motivational, 4th-wall-breaking quotes and we fully endorse her/they (the pronouns for this fusion are unclear in the episode, same with Rainbow Quartz 2.0). Exactly what we’d expect from I Love and Protect Everyone Steven + Everybody’s Favorite Square Mom Garnet.
  • Yellow Diamond had about 10 great new meme faces throughout this episode. For someone who prides herself on her lack of emotion, she sure is expressive.
  • Also, she and Blue have NEVER come across as married more than they do here. Which is sad considering their fight, but also the point, we think.
  • Obsidian pulling a lava sword from their mouth is the most hardcore moment in SU history.
  • Did anyone else think Bismuth and Lapis looked like they might like each other? They had some real soft moments in the background.
  • Peridot: “I can’t believe it!” Sunstone: “You better believe it.” Peridot: “Okay!”
  • Peridot: “Try and catch me you enormous bipedal housing unit!”
  • We love how every Pearl fusion is an unabashed showman. She always has the showman streak but tends to repress it by herself. The fusions bring it out in full force. Rainbow Quartz 2.0 was basically a cross between Mary Poppins and the Thirteenth Doctor in the best way.
  • Amethyst says, “Hey sis,” to Jasper. 🙂 *sniff*
  • Was it just us, or did Obsidian give off a Te Ka from Moana vibe?
  • CENTIPEETLE.
  • We LOVED Lapis’ and Peridot’s new designs.

Girls know how to make an entrance.

Lingering Questions

  • You mean, besides everything?
  • On a scale of “every other moment” to “every moment and then some,” how often did Lars talk about Sadie?
  • How exactly do gems work if Steven “overwrote” Pink Diamond and made that gem his?
  • Was White created with her perfectionist mentality? Is it significant that she wants perfectionism, believes colors = flaws, and is, ahem, white? We mean…that’s a thing the show very well could unpack.
  • We still don’t have any answer about why the Gem Empire exists and spreads across the universe.
  • What exactly does White do when she takes the color from other gems? And just how much does she control puppeteer style? Is this why she never leaves the gem ship? Does she literally control vast swaths of gems and machinery extending throughout their empire?
  • What is the writing on Obsidian’s sword?
  • What is going to happen to the Pebbles??

Images courtesy of Cartoon Network

Bo
Written By

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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