After what felt like a very long break of a couple of months and a Thanks Giving special Steven Universe is back to finish off its fourth season. Despite (especially looking back at the first episodes) Steven having discovered so much about himself, this season has a lot of growth in it.
The expansion of the Universe family mythos in the fall episode with the introduction of first cousin once-removed Andy DeMayo. The themes of family dysfunction and alienations are strong, the Gems actually being aliens I guess but also from an outsider occupying space with an in-group, the kind of thing that happens when mutual friends have circles from other spheres of their life and it is very difficult to fit in. Andy: ‘I was the only one who tried to keep it how it used to be. I knew what it meant to really be a family and look where that got me!’
Steven chasing after him in his plane with Lapis: ‘I love the Gems, but I’m a human too. I never had the chance to know that part of my family, but now I do.’
“The power of love in the face of change and distance is prominent in this episode, but also throughout the series [it] is the thing that is constant”
It’s a familial diaspora that necessarily happens when people get older, but the distance doesn’t mean that you love them any less. The power of love in the face of change and distance is prominent in this episode, but also throughout the series, the joint love of the Gems, Steven and his father for Rose is the thing that is constant.
The biggest introduction of the season is of the two remaining matriarchs of the Gem Empire: Blue and Yellow Diamond (with the conspicuous absence of White Diamond). There isn’t any kind of set-piece to how them or their power, just and emotional Blue and frustrated Yellow singing a number under the bubbled Quartzes, the Rose Quartz’s gem-type. An entire generation being punished for the actions of an individual indicating a far darker reality on Homeworld than is given mainly by the general tone of the show. This is undercut though by the direction of the episode, rounding the emotional lives of the show’s greatest antagonists in a know-your-enemy kind of way. They are as all good antagonists: rational and clearly motivated, something that I think was essential as the show develops and gets bigger in the scope of its battles, both emotionally and physically.
“Even though the bigger plots still work, by far my favourites are the smaller ones that grow the town in our minds”
The strength of the Gems, Steven and Greg as character has afforded the show space to expand on the marginal characters of beach city and the Gem universe. Onion and his gang just before the break and Connie, Lapis and Peridot (the New Crystal Gems) all got their own episodes each one was amazing. Even though the bigger plots still work, by far my favourites are the smaller ones that grow the town in our minds. The episodes with The Onion Gang, the New Crystal Gems, and Steven being trapped in the Ruby space ship all did so much to grow their characters. I’m glad that the show isn’t neglecting its roots in Beach city.