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Steven Universe has a tender, clarifying reconciliation with an old friend

Illustration for article titled Steven Universe has a tender, clarifying reconciliation with an old friend
Image: Steven Universe (Cartoon Network)
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A wedding is a pretty damn good setting for some Steven Universe comedy. As “Made Of Honor” kicks off, everyone is trying to pull together to plan Ruby and Sapphire’s wedding, working off an enormous binder Steven has been compiling over the course of his whole life. It’s very sweet to see Pearl get excited about the organizational parts of folding invitations, for Ruby and Sapphire to agree on an aesthetic of dolphins and flames, and for Peridot to get dragged into the proceedings like a bored teen. Always the cornball, Steven tells the Gems that “There’s nothing more special and romantic than a beautiful wedding.” (I don’t want to get into a whole thing here, but I will say very briefly that, while I totally buy that Steven in particular is really into weddings and it is definitely really cool to see a kids’ show doing a lesbian wedding plot, I wish there was at least some pushback against the idea that weddings are the most romantic way to express love.)

Even taken on its own terms, though, Ruby and Sapphire’s wedding feels like it’s missing something. When Sapphire expresses some wistfulness about the absent Gems—the destroyed, corrupted, and bubbled members of Garnet’s extended family—Steven realizes there’s someone else he could invite to the wedding. This moment is written, edited, and even scored with surgical precision, pairing a shot of Steven intensely writing on a place card with Bismuth’s equally intense, eerie reverse electric guitar theme, so that you realize (or at least, I realized) that Steven is going to unbubble Bismuth at the exact moment the scene cuts to her name on the card.


Long after “Bismuth” aired, I had a nagging sense that Steven and Bismuth’s fight was something that could have been resolved by a little more conversation, like pretty much every other conflict on this show. Lo and behold, that turns out to be the case: Though Bismuth initially thinks that Rose had secretly bubbled every Gem who disagreed with her, after a brief fight with a corrupted version of Biggs Steven manages to explain both Pink’s identity and the lingered aftereffects of the Diamond attack on the Crystal Gems. Bismuth actually takes everything pretty well, except for a brief moment where she has to scream into a pool of lava. (Easily the funniest reaction anyone has had to learning about Pink Diamond.) Of course Rose overreacted when Bismuth suggesting using a new weapon to shatter her.

It’s nice to have Uzo Aduba back on the show. She continues to give Bismuth a sense of intensity that’s often missing from the other Crystal Gems, and also manages to be very funny, like when she roars that “Biggs was beloved by everyone!” or when she nervously asks the other Gems if they Bismuth-ed her. And she brings a real sense of pathos and wounded pride to Bismuth’s scene with Steven in the forge, when the only recently-revived Gem expresses her conviction that nobody else on the team wants her around. The pun in the title of the episode finally comes into play, as Bismuth lists all of the qualities of her makeup and tells Steven, “I’m not as dense as you might think.”

At the end of the conversation, Bismuth tells Steven that he’s the leader of the Crystal Gems, not Garnet. After all, the team has no reason to stay together without the myth of Rose Quartz or the ongoing war with Home World. (Also, Garnet doesn’t exist at the moment.)An emerging theme of this arc, though, is that there isn’t really one leader of the Crystal Gems. Amethyst is clearly the most mature member of the team, but Garnet is still in the nominal tactical leadership role, Steven’s warmth and compassion inspire everyone to stay together, and Pearl was the initial inspiration for the whole thing in the first place. Steven Universe will always be focused on Steven, but the Crystal Gems are really becoming an ensemble. When Steven tells Bismuth that the other Gems will accept her when they see that she’s resolved her differences with Steven, it’s framed as wisdom and guidance from a friend, rather than a leader.

I’ll be very pleased if, going forward, Bismuth becomes a sort of auxiliary Crystal Gem like Lapis and Peridot (who manages to keep her can floating the longest for Steven’s pre-wedding toast). After all, everyone is so happy to see her. The cast is pretty big already, but it’ll be nice to have someone around who’s adjusting to the group dynamic, which often produces some of the show’s best episodes—think a lot of the early episodes when Peridot was joining the team. And though I still have my (justified) gripe about the wedding, I’m not going to pretend I didn’t melt into a puddle at the end of the episode when Bismuth revealed her wedding gift to Ruby and Sapphire: a pair of rings.


Stray observations:

  • Bismuth is also a good fan stand-in in this episode. When Steven tells her that Garnet split up, Uzo Aduba gives us a good whine: “What?! No, they’re my favorite couple!”
  • “Does anybody want to start a small Bismuth?”
  • See you tomorrow for the end of this arc as Garnet is “Reunited.”

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