The four-part finale of Steven Universe Future descends into despair before it regains its light. As the old saying goes, “Things will get worse before they become better.” As Steven Universe (Zach Callison) faces his downward spiral, he desires to solve matters on his own, spurning his loved ones’ attempt to reach out. The Gem he shattered during his rage, Jasper (Kimberly Brooks), inadvertently inspires him to seek out his titan-Diamond relatives in Homeworld for answers to control his Diamond powers.
The first episode “Homeworld Bound” also gives us a tour of Era 3 in Homeworld and how Steven’s far-reaching inspiration dissembled oppression. The hot-headed former conqueror Yellow Diamond (Patti LuPone) is repairing Gems from her horrific forced-fusion experiments, Blue Diamond (Lisa Hannigan, who sings a disconcerting sweet tune) is spreading auras of joy in response to the times she forced Gems to cry her own tears, and White Diamond (Christine Ebersole) is allowing smaller Gems to inhabit her body.
None of their methods work for Steven. “Homeworld Bound” might feel reminiscent of sampling different modes of healing that worked for others, yet not one of them improving your issues. And White Diamond’s method results in a disturbing yet relatable high-octane nightmare scene. For anyone who has endured trauma, observing Steven envisioning himself as a vengeful giant staring down his former abuser, hits hard.
“Homeworld Bound” reminds us of the darker familial dynamics that exacerbate Steven’s problems. As PTSD-flashback reminds Steven, they, particularly White Diamond, were the ones who seeded in the worst of his trauma. For all the Diamonds’ quirky charms, just because the Diamonds channeled their remorse into reconstruction doesn’t necessarily make them too helpful for one of their former victims, no matter how much he’s on better terms with them.
Flummoxed by the lack of any real answers to restrain his Diamond powers, Steven returns to Beach City and attempts to retreat to the status quo in “Everything’s Fine.” The Crystal Gems (Estelle, Deedee Magno Hall, Michaela Dietz) try a non-confrontational approach to give him some breathing space. Steven returns to his Little Homeworld academy despite the clear glowing Gem-illness that messes up the simplest of tasks, leaving a trail of awkward interactions and destruction. All these humiliations and the loss of control accrue into the final tragedy in “I Am My Monster” as Steven morphs into a Corrupted-Gem, a kaiju beast, and loses all will over his body.
For people who have gone through tragedies or trauma, Steven Universe illustrates best through its abstracted visuals that the loss of control can be the most engulfing terror, one that can drive a well-intended person to suck others into their vortex and fear any comfort. The penultimate Steven Universe chapter “I Am My Monster” is a straight ensemble piece, the first and only episode that defers full perspective to Steven’s loved ones confronting his monstrous metamorphosis. Steven has always been their support system as they were to him, but they have taken for granted how burdens weighed heavily on a child like him. As Steven Universe Future tells Steven and its young viewers, sweet beings like Steven can fall into dark places. But healing can always be in reach as long as you have your attentive support system. As the self-blame demonstrates, even the most caring support system can suffer the pain of watching their loved ones’ mental welfare slip so far from their control, and as Connie (Grace Rolek) points out, wallowing in self-guilt does the least for the injured party. Knowing the consistent and transformative wholesomeness with a show like Steven Universe, the final emotional release is inevitable.
As an effective finale does, Future presses all the “feels” buttons: consequences that mount harder, old and new lessons sinking in, prolonged farewells, a reprise of a bubbly song that gains melancholic hindsight (“Cookie Cat, he left his family behind”), and a drive-through the familiarity that has evolved.
And Steven will find his desired independence in the final episode, “The Future.” Just not without caution and assurance his support systems will be available, even from a distance. It’s minor yet momentous in passing dialogue that he references virtual therapy appointments in his schedule. It assures us that healing for Steven is ongoing and didn’t stop after his breakdown. The last eleven minutes of Future drops this final lesson: Triple-check if you and your loved ones need more time to say goodbye.
- The human couple Garnet was counseling? They sure look like Rebecca Sugar and her animation partner and husband Ian Jones-Quartey.
- On Homeworld, you can see even a wall-Gem just moseying along.
- It was my curiosity how Steven Universe Future could return to the Mutant-Gem forced-fusion, and arguably I had hoped that would have been dealt with more.
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