By Mark Laherty
And so, we begin the Diamond Days. As Steven Universe unfurls what surely must be one of its final batches of episodes, I’ll be writing the Steven Reviewniverse column. For today and the following three weeks, I’ll be reviewing each new episode as it airs, followed by a bigger breakdown of the four-episode event ‘Battle of Heart and Mind’ on January 21st. While these reviews won’t spoil the episodes themselves, they will spoil anything that’s come before owing to the heavily serialised structure of SU arcs. With that said, let’s begin.
‘Legs from Here to Homeworld’ isn’t exactly new; it’s been floating around the Cartoon Network website for several months. But, it’s the first episode of the arc so it would be silly to skip it. The episode is essentially a transition from one story arc to the next. The previous arc was, of course, the wildly successful story of Ruby and Sapphire’s wedding. Now, we move towards another Homeworld run-around. That this episode is a bridge between stories and therefore light on any theme is an all-but-inevitable casualty of the show’s semi-serial structure. But, there’s still some stuff to investigate.
Take Yellow and Blue Diamond, the villainous rulers of Homeworld who, apparently, aren’t so villainous anymore or perhaps never were. As far as the show’s redemptive turns go, this is perhaps the least convincing development to date. ‘Reunited’ put forward that Blue and Yellow were only antagonistic to humanity because they were grieving their sister Pink, and that once they discovered that Steven was Pink (kind of), they essentially swapped sides.
This problem starts to come to a head in ‘Legs from Here to Homeworld,’ where Yellow and Blue follow Steven around as if they’re just another couple of goons subjected to the Undertale effect. It feels bizarre. Isn’t this the same Yellow Diamond who wanted to destroy all life on Earth to create her Cluster geo-weapon? Aren’t the Diamonds and the Homeworld they represent characterised by allusions to colonialism’s land-gobbling quest for world domination? Apparently not. Instead, the Diamonds bother our heroes because of a misunderstanding rather than any serious disagreement about how the world works. This is miles away from, say, Peridot, who tangibly changed her morals back in Season 2.
It’s not to say that the move doesn’t work at all. Steven Universe has, as early as the first appearance of Lapis, been up-front about believing in redemption. Bad people can become better, the show says, so long as they change their ways. But, that requires a clear sense of what’s wrong with the villain’s actions and how they change. Given how much the political context has changed since the show started, this is a serious fumble. A tale of redeeming and re-accommodating villains probably would have stuck the landing a lot better back when the show was in its early planning stages and the world wasn’t on fire.
On the flipside, there’s much to recommend even this ‘bridge’ episode. The new spaceship design is an absolute treat. The return of Centipeedle in her original form as Nephrite is bittersweet; there’s a real knack for visual storytelling here. The scene communicates sci-fi mechanics and neuroscience in a way that can be clearly understood without a glut of exposition. Plus, as we draw closer to the end of the show, lots of incidental environmental details that have been there since Season 1 are getting paid off in ways that don’t even form a climax or a huge twist. There are a lot of pins in a lot of grenades and they’re all being pulled. It’s a great time to be a long-term Steven Universe fan.
But, it’s hard to distract from the looming presence of the Diamonds. That scene with Nephrite calls attention to the Diamonds’ culpability in corrupting her and many other Gems – again, a plot element that’s been floating around in the basement since the start of the show. Steven correctly criticises them for this and says that they have a responsibility to right their wrongs. But they’re unresponsive. This, undoubtedly, is a signpost towards the Diamonds genuinely confronting their past misdeeds and, hopefully, their worldview. Hopefully, this plot arc will unfold to make this strange new alliance with Yellow and Blue make more sense. Something has to give here; hopefully, the show can recognise that.
Of course, the intuitive option is to look to the stars and see if there’s some bigger bad who might serve as a contrast to Yellow and Blue, someone the two sisters can argue and clash against in a way that gives us more insight into who they are and what they believe. To that end, ‘Legs from Here to Homeworld’ ends on a hell of a reveal – and while I can’t see the future, I fully expect the relevant lady will be the focus of next week’s episode and review.