Image: Steven Universe (Cartoon Network)

With this arc, a ton of 150 episodes’ worth of Steven Universe storylines are starting to pay off in real, seemingly final ways—or if not final, then at least something close to it. Bringing long-running stories to a satisfactory conclusion is hard on series with 22- and 42-minute episodes; it’s even harder with 11. Thankfully, “Reunited” is a double-length episode, fitting in a wedding, a fight with the Diamonds, and even a moving out-of-body experience. Storyboarded by Miki Brewster, Jeff Liu, Katie Mitroff, and Paul Villeco, “Reunited” in some respects feels like the climax of the entire series until now.

It also starts with the highlight of the episode: “Let’s Only Think About Love,” a a song written by Rebecca Sugar with music by Sugar and Aivi and Surrashu. Beginning with a darkened shot of Steven under a spotlight, the song gives “Reunited” the appearance of a sort of culminating, knowing performance, which is true of both the episode, and the wedding ceremony that serves as the reaffirmation of Ruby and Sapphire’s relationship. Steven shaves a single hair from his cheek, which is both another ceremony, this one symbolizing his partial transformation into an adult, and also a good joke while he gets ready for the wedding. “Let’s Only Think About Love” is, perhaps, one of the most adult things Steven has done in a while: choosing to focus on a pleasant distraction rather than all of the upsetting and uncomfortable feelings and possible conflicts happening in the background.

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Beyond everyone still figuring out what to do about Rose’s identity as Pink Diamond, there’s also the question of the Cluster (which Peridot briefly raises to Steven, along with Lapis’ whereabouts), Bismuth’s reintegration into the team, the eventual conflict with the Diamonds, and Pearl’s role in hiding Rose’s secrets. There is a lot that no one is talking about. But there’s also a lot to distract Steven and the rest of the Gems: The half-hour length gives “Reunited” room to breath, which largely means that the first half of “Reunited” gets to spend some time on the smaller moments of the wedding—Sapphire freezing a little at her feet when she says she’s not nervous, the cake made from a stack of pancakes (with shockingly accurate Ruby and Sapphire toppers), the moment ex-Mayor Dewey and Jamie find each other as lonely friends ignored by their Gem crush objects, Amethyst putting out the fire from Ruby racing to the altar.

And as Brendon Urie would say, what a beautiful wedding! Steven’s ceremony is short and sweet—we already know what’s at stake in the relationship, so it doesn’t need to be reiterated—but the real centerpiece is Sapphire’s vows. After reminiscing about how their meeting altered Sapphire’s ability to see the future, and other possible futures, she tells Ruby: “What I mean is, you changed my life. And then I changed your life. And now, we change our lives.” It pairs perfectly with the joke of Sapphire interrupting Steven during the “I do” portion of the ceremony; not because of her future vision, but just because she’s very excited to be married. Once she reforms and finally returns to the show, Garnet muses on the power of weddings: “Humans found a way to make a moment’s decision last forever.” Garnet’s existence is a testament that Gems have a way of doing that, too. Still, it’s sweet, poignant, and says a lot about how the show thinks about romantic relationships. But then Steven starts crying—the Diamonds have arrived.

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I’m a little less keen on the second half of this episode, partly because over the past couple of years I’ve come to the conclusion that Steven Universe isn’t quite built for fights of this scale. That’s a feature, not a bug—the show thrives in smaller moments, and in highly abstracted fights that manage to take on the quality of art rather than epic or exciting action between relatively equal combatants. Even though the war between the Crystal Gems and Home World is cosmic in nature, it still feels strange to have a big fight in this show of the sort that would otherwise come at the end of a Marvel movie—and if the fight is going to be of that scope, it feels a little off to have like, eight Gems total participating in the fight. It’s the same reason I felt a bit ambivalent about Steven’s initial encounter with the Cluster in “Gem Drill”—and while I like the Cluster a lot more in this appearance, that’s largely because it’s been long enough that its presence can be used as a gag.

To be fair, there are a lot of moments of humor during the fight. Steven falls asleep to communicate with the Cluster after Greg plucks a few notes of a lullaby, much to Connie’s surprise. (Also hey, Connie’s here!) In the process of being evacuated, Ronaldo briefly tries to draw a sword to attack the seemingly muscle-bound, sinewy arm of the Cluster, only to be wordlessly pulled away from the scene. And, of course, when the Cluster actually does emerge, it winds up in an arm-wrestling match with Yellow Diamond’s ship. Those moments of humor, while welcome, also slightly deflate the very real sense of dread the Diamonds’ appearance creates—especially when so much of the fallout from the fight has real consequences for the world of Steven Universe going forward.

A lot of iconic items, items, and places from the show get destroyed by this fight. Blue Diamond shatters Rose’s sword when Connie takes a swing at her. Lapis drops the barn on Blue, which unfortunately also means we might have lost all of Lapis and Peridot’s meep morps. (Still, Lapis is back! And she hits Blue with the barn! I appreciate how this moment was handled, with an almost perfunctory sense of inevitability—it’s sweet and exciting, but the storyboard team doesn’t feel the need to linger at all.) And at the end of the arm-wrestling match, the Cluster destroys Yellow Diamond’s ship, then throw’s Blue’s ship into the house, which looks pretty wrecked. Bismuth claims she can fix the house—and she’s almost certainly going to make a new sword for Connie—but it’s still going to be different. So, unless they have backup vessels waiting in orbit or instant ways of getting ahold of warping ships, the Diamonds are stranded on Earth for the time being. (Also, are their Pearls okay? Was anyone else on board?)

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So much crazy stuff happens during the fight with the Diamonds that not only is Alexandrite’s presence one of the least interesting elements, it feels a little exhausting just writing all of it out. In particular, we see that Blue’s main form of attack is psychic, emitting her millennia of grief and mourning in a wave that paralyzes all of the Gems—all of them except for Lapis. “I’ve felt worse,” she says while wiping away tears, which is both a badass moment and a way of taking a stand for herself as a survivor of some really, really terrible shit. (It’s also one of Jennifer Paz’s better line readings.) In this case, being a survivor is a strength of Lapis. Still, once Yellow Diamond emerges and joins the fight, she poofs Lapis, along with Peridot and, possibly, Steven.

After being beaten to a pulp by Yellow Diamond, Steven finds himself in a classic “psychic ghost situation,” floating in a sort of ethereal plane where all of the Gems are depicted as fighting on top of enormous, statuesque versions of their bodies. Does it matter what this place is? Not really... but also, maybe? It does feel a little too similar to the resolution of some of the other big conflicts the show has had, and like an easy way to have Steven tell Blue and Yellow Diamond the truth about Pink. It’s nice to see Steven give words of encouragement to each of the Gems that manage to feel like they put a little bow on some parts of their character arcs—reminding Pearl that she can act for herself, that Amethyst has the confidence and skill to fight, that Garnet is made of love—but it also feels just a touch too much like it had to be this way, in a manner that makes sense, but is also more writerly than it is artful. (Also, Peridot and Lapis have been poofed, which means Steven doesn’t get to talk them. I’ve missed Peridot and Lapis!)

Eventually, Steven manages to learn some of what’s going on in the Diamonds’ heads: Yellow blames herself for Pink getting shattered, and Blue only feels sadder the more she punishes the Crystal Gems. After fighting his way to their souls (or whatever is happening here), Steven sends them a message, radiating out pink light like a little Buddha: “We aren’t enemies, we’re family.” There’s a lot of other stuff that has to get revisited in the following episodes: Jasper, Lars’ return to Earth, Peridot and Lapis’ reunion, and, uh, Gem civilization’s other crimes against colonized planets. But “Reunited” ends with the striking image of Yellow and Blue Diamond looming over Steven, amazed and confused in equal measure, ceasing their attack. It’s a new era for Steven Universe.

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Stray observations:

  • Peridot, wearing a very nice and amusingly feminine yellow dress, after throwing flowers into the aisle: “Wedding commander, all flowers have been deployed!”
  • Other small wedding touches: Bismuth catches the bouquet—for no real reason, I’m using that, her obvious affection for Peridot, and their successful fastball special into Blue Diamond’s eye to wildly speculate that Bismuth might actually be the first Gem Peridot fuses with (if that ever happens), instead of Lapis or Amethyst.
  • Another nice small gesture: Though Ruby is usually coded as the more masculine part of Garnet, here she wears a wedding dress while Sapphire wears a tuxedo, and the reunited Garnet has a blend of both.
  • Also, Andy came!
  • That’s it for this arc! See you when the show comes back—maybe with a new title sequence. (I don’t know anything more than you do, but it feels like the right time for one, doesn’t it?)

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