Steven Universe has been running for long enough that we know most of the characters’ hangups, even if they’re not emotionally activated in a given episode. (Amethyst’s now-resolved anxiety over her original form, Pearl’s feelings for Rose, and so on.) At a certain point, the show has two options for moving its characters in new directions, emotionally—either it can introduce new information, or it can have the characters respond to existing information in new ways. (Or, to put another way, it can have Steven discover what Rose did in “Bubbled” or have Pearl decide to move on with her life in “Mr. Greg.”) In “Storm In The Room,” Colin Howard and Jeff Liu turn in an episode that doesn’t quite do either. It’s still enjoyable, and provides one heartbreaking moment between Steven and Rose, but it doesn’t quite move the dial.
When the Gems are off installing the new sign at the car wash, Steven is left to hang out with Connie. (When Connie asks whether the Gems will be back soon, Steven replies: “you wouldn’t believe how many of them it takes to screw in a lightbulb.”) But Dr. Maheswaran takes a while to get to the temple, and Connie gets understandably upset (even though Steven tries to distract her with Mad Libs). Their tearful reunion and the ensuing sequence of a latchkey Steven making mac and cheese in the microwave only for it to be soaked in rain, helps prime him to be thinking about Rose.
So the meat of “Storm In The Room” is Steven’s attempt to connect with Rose in one of the only forms he has available—her room in the temple. Steven and the spectral Rose do all sorts of parental activities, including playing Lonely Arms, an arm-wrestling simulation spun off from the Lonely Blade fighting games which are in turn spun off from the Lonely Blade TV show, and football (a more masculine activity than you would expect from Rose, but that’s one of the great things about Steven Universe’s approach to gender). Eventually, we get the deeply unsettling image of Steven, wide-eyed and uncomfortable, lying in his fake mother’s lap. He’s forgotten that she’s not real.
Rose’s dialogue is kind of a parody of what the idealized version of Rose might say. She calls the video game “marvelous,” and when they try to play football, she says, “all sports are beautiful. Each sport is a unique experience—the adrenaline, the glory, the sheer feats of athleticism. Each one so complicated and yet, exactly the same.” This is totally something Rose would have actually said based on our understanding of her character—but that understanding is filtered by Greg’s recollections and Rose’s absence, the same way it is for Steven. Eventually, she responds to Steven’s loneliness by saying “We’ve been together this whole time.”
This is true, but it’s also vaguely platitudinous—which the show knows, and wants to acknowledge. Steven calls the spectral version of Rose a “liar,” positing that his birth might have been born as a way for Rose to get away from her mistakes and start over. But of course, he doesn’t actually believe that, which means he’s left in the same place he was at the beginning of the episode. (Minus the Charlie Brown reference with the football.) The end is, accordingly, a little abrupt, and a little obvious. We know that Steven already has a family in the Gems and Greg (and Connie and Peridot and Lapis). That’s like, the whole point of the show! Eventually, Steven is going to have to learn what happened to Pink Diamond and make some decisions for himself.
- “The last thing I need right now is more space.” Zing!
- Steven says he’s thought about dying his hair pink. Is this already a subsection of the fanart community, or does it need to become one?
- The thing with the phone raises some weird questions about how the Gem rooms work.
- “Guess who’s back in jean shorts?” Hell yeah, Greg.
- Sorry for the delay on this! I’ve been traveling today and the review didn’t publish when I thought I’d scheduled it. We should be back on track next week.
- Update: Aaaand sorry for the mess originally in the last graf! My fault for not checking to make sure the most recent version was here. (Like I said in the last bullet, I’ve been traveling and haven’t had the chance to look at this since it went up.)