Steven Universe: Familiar
December 25, 2018 5:12 AM - Season 5, Episode 25 - Subscribe

With many changes going on in his life, Steven tries to find his place in the world.
posted by duffell (29 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by duffell at 5:27 AM on December 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

CN's decision to show this on Christmas Eve is bizarre and unexplainable, but it was a great episode for those who saw it. There's so many weird details here, it's our first solid look at Homeworld, which we've always seen before in transit or from beneath, so to speak. (Pendleton Ward, by the way, the creator of Adventure Time, is listed as a writer on this episode!)

We got our first look at a whole new species of gem life, the wonderful Pebbles, who seem to live in the walls to Pink's room. We don't know yet if Pebbles live throughout Homeworld or if they're only in Pink's room, but they show us that there's things on Homeworld that aren't ultimately bad. If there is some secret dark truth to Pebbles it isn't yet evident. They've been mentioned once before, as one of the insults Peridot used against the Crystal Gems back when she was in her Invader Zim phase. Steven even creates a new Pebble spontaneously when one of his tears hits an inert rock,

We also see that things are alive on Homeworld, like almost in a profound sense. The gem figures that make up archways talk to each other, and we see gem statuary that blinks its eyes occasionally.

A bit saddening is, when Steven asks Yellow Pearl to call him "Steven," he has difficulty getting her to call him that, alone, and upon testing the limits our Pearl tells him "you'll break her." Break. Is that what happened to White Pearl?

We also encounter Yellow and Blue Diamonds' "extraction chambers," which apparently absorb fluid from their bodies (generated in a sauna or a bath) for some unknown purpose.

From Yellow Diamond, we get some condescending talk about how Pink Diamond's jokes were "almost worth it." She mentions that White Diamond, the key to Steven's whole mission to fix the corrupted gems, has lived in her own head for a long time, and the two-and-a-half words Steven managed to say to her were "a new record." Blue seems a lot more affectionate towards Steven, even calling him Steven at first instead of Pink. We find out that the Diamonds used to be a lot closer to each other, before Pink left. Also, Blue's comb is alive.

Steven notices the similarities between Pink Diamond and his first-season, sometimes-annoying self, and decides to try bring together the Diamonds again, like a family, in the way that he helped bring the Crystal Gems together back on Earth when he was growing up.

And we have set for us the premise, it seems, for the remaining episodes in the block, airing (ugh) on December 31st, and January 7th and 21st: Steven making a case for Earth through throwing a huge party on Homeworld, in the way Pink Diamond used to do, but incorporating elements of Earth into it.

Some other bits:
- Blue Pearl greets Pearl with "Welcome back."
- One of the Pebbles munches on a snack in Steven's bag! Speaking of which, it's the Hot Dog duffel box introduced in Steven's TubeTube unboxing video.
- The Pebbles construct clothes like Pink Diamonds' for Steven.
- Pearl sneaks Amethyst, Garnet and Connie into Pink's room through her gem.
- Pearl mentions Pink's old court, and wonders what happened to them.
posted by JHarris at 6:02 AM on December 25, 2018

I am excited yet a little creeped out by the pebbles, as well as all the semi animate objects. And that Steven's tears made a new one! Also I really hate the childish, uncomfortable looking Pink Diamond outfit. It's clownish.

Homeworld just generally seems kinda awful and the gems fairly miserable and it makes me twitchy.
posted by emjaybee at 8:21 AM on December 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

I find it preeeetty weird that Pink Diamond apparently wore clothes, and didn't just project her form like everyone else. When I saw the promo art featuring Steven in the silly PD armour, I assumed that White tried to make him revert back to Pink, and it didn't fully take.

Aside from that quibble, and the Cartoon Network's ongoing attempts to sabotage this show by giving it just the worst broadcast schedule, I am super happy the show is back. This episode was ok, but felt mostly like setup for the rest of this arc.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 8:56 AM on December 25, 2018

I'm calling it: Steven won't be able to fix this one with charm and togetherness. Charm and togetherness are an amazing set of powers and I'm glad this show takes them seriously as forces for good, but I think this is when he learns that healing a toxic family isn't a single person's responsibility, or within a single person's abilities.

The Pink Diamond outfit is indeed awful -- I think PD kind of sold the look, but you're right, she's literally the clown of the family. The dysfunctional family archetypes are alive and well among the Diamonds, with the caveat that nobody ever plays just one role (Yellow is a classic Hero, Pink is both Scapegoat and Clown).
posted by thesmallmachine at 10:17 AM on December 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

that was super interesting. all the little things that are showing us what Homeworld is like are both fascinating and unsettling. I love that they're coming back around to others treating Steven like a baby again, it really shows the character development we've all been absorbing.
posted by numaner at 10:22 AM on December 25, 2018

Did anyone else hear “extraction room” and worry that someone would try to peel Steven like a grape?

I also thought that the Pink Diamond costume was odd and clownish, but also kind of reminiscent of the mice dressing Cinderella.
posted by janepanic at 1:16 PM on December 25, 2018 [6 favorites]

I loved all the weird and wonderful details of Homeworld--or at least of the "royal court," which is probably not the most typical example of life on Homeworld. Pen Ward did a lot of the storyboarding and it shows.

I keep coming back to the attitudes that gemkind harbors toward organic life, and the way *everything* seems to be not only alive on Homeworld, as JHarris said, but sentient, makes those attitudes... interesting. There's more here, not sure exactly what.

posted by duffell at 2:46 PM on December 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

(For the record, no, I don't think Onion is a Pebble or Ronaldo is a snerson. Onion is 100% human and at the same time weirder than anything seen on Homeworld or Ronaldo's blog.)
posted by duffell at 2:50 PM on December 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

"I'm gonna throw a HUGE BALL, and I'm going to invite EVERYONE... to watch me try to catch it!"
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:13 PM on December 25, 2018

I keep coming back to the attitudes that gemkind harbors toward organic life, and the way *everything* seems to be not only alive on Homeworld, as JHarris said, but sentient, makes those attitudes... interesting. There's more here, not sure exactly what.

There's a lot of life on Homeworld, but it's all deliberately placed. The friezes, the arches, they're there because someone placed them there, not because they decided to be arches. The pebbles may have their own lives inside the walls, but they're petrified (ha) of being seen by Pink until they realize he's Steven and friendly.

Organic life is messy and unpredictable and doesn't stay where you put it.
posted by explosion at 6:39 AM on December 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

The friezes and arches are fascinating and horrifying. If every gem is made to serve a purpose, I can only imagine the purpose of these gems is to underscore the importance of the all-powerful diamonds. Not merely for aesthetics, but as a living symbol of the dominance of the ruling class. I mean, these are living beings who were, ostensibly, literally made to be placed motionless in the halls of power for all to view, with no agency or ability to alter their circumstances. So anyone walking into the diamonds' palaces is going to see these gems and be reminded of the power the diamonds wield.
posted by duffell at 7:39 AM on December 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

but they're petrified (ha) of being seen by Pink until they realize he's Steven and friendly.

I thought the Pebbles were scared of Steven until they realize he's actually Pink Diamond.
posted by numaner at 11:30 AM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I guess we don't know how Pink treated them; I meant that they're likely expected to neither be seen nor heard from. It's when Steven shows that he's actively interested in them and friendly that they warm up to him. It well could be that Pink was the same, but if that were true, she'd still have been the exception.
posted by explosion at 11:37 AM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

They knew he was Pink because he said "thank you". They exclaim "it IS her! our diamond!" No mystery there.
posted by emjaybee at 11:55 AM on December 26, 2018 [7 favorites]

I find it preeeetty weird that Pink Diamond apparently wore clothes, and didn't just project her form like everyone else.

Is it apparent she wore clothes ? The pebbles made the costume for Steven because they make everything he needs and he needs to look like Pink Diamond.
posted by Pendragon at 3:07 PM on December 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

That was lovely. I was worried that after all the build up Homeworld would end up feeling too small or too simple, but that's not at all the case. There's so much here to explore! It's so playful and yet so quietly horrifying!

It feels so right that Steven got a Disney princess moment here. It's still kind of incredible to me to see Steven's enjoyment of femme things treated as no big deal. TV and movies are full of tomboy girls, but I literally can't think of any other boy on TV who gets to wear poofy pink ruffles and have it treated as a natural extension of their character, rather than a joke. It makes me happy to see.

I found this episode also made it much easier to imagine how Pearls could be considered possessions rather than people. In a context where even combs are sentient, a well-behaved Pearl does seem to fill the role of something like a phone, travelling with their owners or delivering messages, reminding them of appointments, providing information, and storing/retrieving useful stuff. And of course the other Pearls are well practiced in being object-like.

Yellow's sauna, Blue's bath, and Steven's magic tears/spit seem probably related in some way, but I don't know how. It'll be interesting to see how that unfolds.

Vaguely speaking of which -- it was neat that Yellow's sauna has the new 3 diamond crest while sentimental Blue is still using the old 4 diamond crest. Seems fitting that Blue would have a hard time letting go.

Anyhow, I'm so, so glad this show is back. I only wish the wait between episodes wasn't so long!
posted by Kilter at 10:09 PM on December 26, 2018 [8 favorites]

Yellow's sauna, Blue's bath, and Steven's magic tears/spit seem probably related in some way, but I don't know how. It'll be interesting to see how that unfolds.

I wonder if that's the liquid in the injectors from the kindergarten?
posted by Jilder at 1:34 AM on December 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

I just had the same thought as Jilder, belatedly - it could be the injector stuff. Also a creepy / dehumanizing concept, which seems pretty on-brand for Homeworld.
posted by cage and aquarium at 2:56 AM on December 27, 2018

So: the juice in the injectors is "sweated" out of the Diamonds. Does White still do this, or not anymore? Or ever?

(what IS White? Why is she so static? Why is Homeworld broken? What happened to her Pearl? SO MANY QUESTIONS)

On Earth, Steven wasn't bringing things to life willy-nilly by crying on them, and he cried a lot, seems like that should have happened. But maybe only happens to rocks? And he never cried/sweated on/licked a rock? Hmmmm.

Do the other Diamonds have Pebbles? Do other Gems?


(that last one is the most bothersome. FREE THEM, STEVEN)
posted by emjaybee at 8:27 AM on December 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

I find it preeeetty weird that Pink Diamond apparently wore clothes,
look back to recent episodes, where she changes into rose, pink diamond doesn't have clothes
posted by eustatic at 12:28 PM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

In the montage while Steven is singing, the Pebbles go through his bag and presumably work out clothing from first principles.
posted by Jilder at 7:20 PM on December 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

The costume may have been a wee bit childish etc. but Steven wearing and rocking it made me beyond happy and dude it's a character that looks male and is wearing a poofy skirt and fluffy slippers and absolutely rocking the hell out of it on a kid's show...on TV...on cartoon network without even so much of a mention or funny comment made about it. Wear what you like and go nuts!

I, for one, did not hate the outfit.

OTOH, we do know the other diamonds treated Pink as a child or at least less mature. It could also be that Pink Diamond chose to be represented in that fashion for whatever reason. We at this point don't know?
posted by lizarrd at 11:57 AM on December 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

I was thinking, it might be useful at this point to list Steven's powers that we knew Pink/Rose had, the powers Rose may have developed or realized she had after her exile, and those that may be unique to Steven.

We know Rose can adjust her falling speed. That's something Pink could probably also do, because it explains the lack of surprise from Diamonds Yellow and Blue when Steven did it.

We know that Steven's tears can produce Pebbles. Pink evidently could do that too. We don't know if this is related to Pink/Rose's organic life revival power, which we know existed before Steven was born because of Lion, and we know exists after he was born because of Lars, but it seems like there may be a connection. It's worth noting that Pebbles may not be exactly like Gems; all the pre-made Pebbles we see consist of a rock-like body, but have a "lump" somewhere on their bodies that seems to be like a Gem's gem. It's possible that, although their bodies seem to be made of stone, that they are light projections like a Gem's is, although without the luminescent properties of the gemstone they cannot create large bodies or demonstrate powers. The one Pebble that Steven accidentally made seems to have eyes and mouth that appeared on its stone, however. (Did Steven actually make this one? Maybe it was just sleeping and he woke it up.)

It's worth noting that Pink/Rose/Steven's organic life revival power is actually multiple. It allows access to the "Pink Dimension," which can not only contain things like a Pearl can, but also serve as transport across huge swaths of space. And Lion also has a portal generation capability, can walk on water, and perhaps do other weird things that maybe Lars can do to later.

We know that Pink/Rose could animate plants, a power she probably had no opportunity to realize she had on Homeworld. This is probably connected with the animate moss and vines we saw in season one. (Remember: the moss bloomed into flowers with gemstones in their centers!) Maybe it didn't even exist until Earth; I've theorized before that Earth has a way of "empowering" gems, which could explain Peridot's realization of metal-moving powers. We do know she had a rose (although it looks like it may be a mineral in the shape of a rose) in her room on Homeworld; we have no way of knowing yet whether this is connected. Anyway, Steven can do this too. We don't know yet if the other Diamonds knew she could do this; the Pebbles seem afraid of gems other than Pink Diamond. Maybe they're seen as pests? Peridot once used the word pebble as one of her insults. I'm amused by the thought that they spread and multiplied, like roaches, throughout Homeworld, an eternal plague that cannot be stamped out, and that Pink Diamond may have taken secret joy in sustaining it.

Healing gems is where things get weirder. Eyeball's testimony in The Trial implies that only Rose Quartz could heal gems. Since they thought Pink was gone by that point, it's possible they knew Pink could do it too, but somehow I don't think so. If they knew only Pink and Rose could heal gems, it'd be a strong hint to them that they were the same person, so I suspect they didn't know. Could it be possible for Steven, then, to heal White Pearl? Note that that crack isn't in her gem, but in her light form.

We know Steven is really strong. We know Rose was at least strong enough to stop a madly-spinning Ferris Wheel with her bare hands.

Finally, we come to fusion with humans. This seems definitely something only Steven can do. There's still a lot about this we don't know, like if Stevonnie can fuse with other humans, or gems, or both at once. Stevonnie does at least have Pink's floating power.

None of this explains the Crystal Temple, the extradimensional spaces inside it, or Bizmuth's armory. Those could have been made by different gems, with different powers.
posted by JHarris at 5:59 PM on December 28, 2018 [6 favorites]

I'm just curious how the Temple exists with the Temple Fusion, which clearly includes Amethyst (or, possibly, another gem with the same gem location as Amethyst) but Amethyst didn't emerge until after the corruption and wasn't discovered until long after the war was over. Which implies the temple wasn't built until after the war. At best, it was a structure built before the war as a part of the colony that was later adapted to be the Crystal Gems' home base.

Supposedly they've had the timeline for Rose's rebellion worked out since pretty early on, but the temple and the temple fusion happens to be one of the absolute first things imagined since the pilot. There's a strong possibility that it's just a plot hole that can't be resolved.

Also: Pink/Rose/Steven's healing power isn't entirely unique. Recall that Peridot's robonoids were able to repair the Galaxy Warp with a mysterious green liquid. The Galaxy Warp isn't a gem, of course, but Steven's healing power is supposed to work as well on gem technology as gems themselves (and the distinction between what is a gem and what is "gem technology" has always been intentionally vague). Between that and Pink/Rose/Steven's mysterious ability to bring lions or Lars back from the dead I think it's the case that Diamonds (specifically the liquid diamonds produce) are the source of new gems, and I suspect that White Diamond's current disinterest in doing anything at all is an important part of the "lack of resources" that plagued Era Two.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 10:35 PM on December 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

I figured it was a celebratory construction, Mr Encyclopedia. They built it around the Temple to solidify their relationship. It certainly looks like it could be five thousand years old.
posted by Jilder at 1:50 PM on January 1, 2019

what IS White? Why is she so static?

The 'White' that you see is actually White's portion of the Mothership - Pink is the legs, Blue/Yellow are the arms, and White is a similarly proportioned torso/head. Which means that the speaking voice could be White proper, or the fractured Pearl, or some other entity entirely just 'driving' the speaking portion of the ship.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:25 AM on January 3, 2019

Speaking for myself, having to worry about the emotions of sentient household items would be so exhausting.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:14 AM on January 8, 2019

The more I rewatch this episode, the more brilliant it is. Steven's faced with this huge freaking challenge, and he solves it with the power of empathy.

I mean, that's sort of the whole show in a nutshell, but it's done very well here.
posted by duffell at 10:53 PM on April 6, 2019

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