Today on Steven Universe, we begin one of the series greatest arcs. No spoilers for future episodes as per usual but, for those going through it for the first time, as the episode plainly indicates, this is going to be quite the series of episodes.
“Steven’s Dream” kicked off the fifth StevenBomb ever, appropriately titled “Out of This World” and for the first StevenBomb I’ll be covering on this site, I’m excited to state that this is arguably the strongest one yet, it’s not my personal favorite but it’s likely second place. Ignoring the leaks almost a month in advance, which I managed to do, this actually premiered with a double-shot, so I initially saw “Steven’s Dream” and the next episode, “Adventures in Light Distortion” back-to-back. For the sake of my sanity I’ll only be covering “Steven’s Dream” today so if on the off-chance you’re reading this before I get to “Adventures in Light Distortion”, I’d actually recommend watching the two as a pairing. Despite serving as distinct portions in the narrative, they manage to work wonderfully as an emotional one-two premiere for the rest of the Bomb.
It’s hard to determine exactly where to start when discussing “Steven’s Dream”, the episode is centered around a lot of stellar character drama while also containing a plethora of big plot points, along with using continuity to better serve the narrative progression. It’s been something I’ve been purposefully avoiding for quite some time but I think for this episode tackling it from the recap perspective makes the most sense as I’m struggling to figure out another way to provide structure to this piece.
“Steven’s Dream” opens up from the lens of Steven’s ‘dream’, as he witnesses some beautiful landscapes until he is woke up by Greg as his ‘dream’ causes him to shed tears. This immediately signals that the episode is going to be a big deal, not only because Steven’s mental dream abilities have been firmly established since it’s introduction in “Chille Tid” but because his powers of empathetic telepathy have no effected him in such a manner and his dream features a locale never previously shown in Steven Universe, hinting towards the character introduction at the end of the episode. Following this, Greg takes Steven home and before the say their goodbyes for the night, we get one of my favorite scenes this season.
Before I talk about the scene itself proper, it needs to be noted that this scene only further expresses just how much of a catapult this episode is for the series, while also in hindsight explaining why Steven’s power has caused a connection between him and Blue Diamond. It demonstrates just how much the gem shattering news revealed in “Back to the Moon” has lingered in Steven’s head, which is important as it in reflection it’s clear that those thoughts are what formed the connection between the two later on. As for the scene on a surface level, it’s a great combination of funny (Greg equating starting a war to believing Disco was coming back into prominence) and heartwarming (basically the rest of the scene). It helps a lot that Greg’s mindset is very similar to my own, “The past is the past. All that matters to me is who you are now.” Albeit I might exhibit more curiosity than Greg seemingly does but that’s very much the position and mentality I carry for myself and seeing it reflected in a way that also emphasizes the importance of the hobbies or activities that make up our daily lives gives the scene an extra punch to it.
While that conversation seemingly alleviates Steven’s worries, it’s all brought back into fruition but the time he goes to sleep, this time seeing a more familiar vision, the Palanquin, briefly introduced earlier this season in “Buddy’s Book”. Connie’s the one to provide Steven with the pertinent information including the correct pronunciation (which not going to lie, I’ve been pronouncing it like Steven), and when he attempts to enlist the help of the Crystal Gems, he’s meet with resistance. Well, from Pearl who attempts to sidesteps the question with a half-truth and Garnet who dominates the argument from the Crystal Gems side, Amethyst herself is just oblivious to the knowledge Steven seeks. I love how she reacts to the tense argument Steven and Garnet get into, with a bag of popcorn. Steven’s frustrations at this point are understandable and his angry assertion that he’s lucky to have something that contains information that he doesn’t have to get from the Crystal Gems is a pretty powerful moment, punctuated by how Steven stresses the word “them” and the pause that ensues before Steven continues on. The conversation that follows is an even better scene, as the two have an earnest conversation bar Garnet’s refusal to tell Steven why she doesn’t want him to go. Her plea only ends up intriguing him more, all while raising the hype to Blue Diamond’s eventual reveal later on.
With the Gems no longer an option, Steven turns to Greg who, being the awesome father that he is, not only agrees to take Steven but even convinces him to take some time to enjoy the trip to Korea. There are two notable things about this segment of the episode. First and most obviously, Andy from “Gem Harvest” has already returned, quickly cementing his importance past his initial appearance. Secondly, they had a weird animation production joke where Greg and Steven literally walk into the office of Korean animators. It was a bizarre fourth-wall joke that was novel enough and thankfully part of the fun time montage so it didn’t manage to break immersion for longer than a few seconds which were at least, mildly amusing. It’s a lot funnier when fourth wall jokes are explicitly stated in character but instead treated as a surreal moment that the characters instead simply react to.
At last the episode transitions into the big reveal, and it’s excellently done. My favorite touch would be Greg’s Déjà vu, complimenting the show’s visual callback to “Story for Steven“. The show takes its sweet time before revealing the imposing figure of Blue Diamond and it pays off in the episode favor. And Blue Diamond herself immediately distinguishes herself from Yellow Diamond, and proves to instantly become of the series more compelling characters. Particularly praise should be partitioned for the voice actress, Lisa Hannigan. I’m not certain if there’s some audio tricks involved but wow, I love her voice here and it encapsulates the character perfectly. She manages to make Blue Diamond’s voice emotionally moving without sacrificing the power of her otherworldly nature. It’s like listening to the depressing musings of an alien sage and I love it. Her conversation with Greg is right up there with his earlier heart-to-heart with Steven among my favorite scenes of the season. An intentional book-end conclusion to the episode as Greg mirrors his position from earlier in the episode, his ability to soothe one dealing with loss. While Steven lacks clarity on his mother he never met, Greg is able to, at least temporarily, reaffirm his initial impression of her whereas Greg is capable of relating to her own issue, comforting her through that connection. All the while, Steven connects with her most visibly through sharing her tears, as the episode continues to position the two on similar grounding. There’s more to Blue Diamond’s kindness kidnapping of Greg that’s laced within her dialogue but for the time being, I’ll stop myself here.
Finally, the episode ends with an intense few seconds as Steven desperately attempts to save his father from Blue Diamond’s clutches, resulting only in failure. Thankfully, Garnet’s there anyway, and she apologizes profusely, explaining that her future vision showed her that had she attended with Steven, she would’ve exposed everyone to Blue Diamond. Steven reciprocates her emotions with his own guilt, blaming himself for Greg’s capture and apologizing for not listening to Garnet’s instructions. This is promptly transitioned to the arc’s mission statement as delivered by Garnet, they’re going to travel to space and retrieve Greg.
As a final concluding note, I really enjoyed how the series handled the dual scenes between Steven and Greg, and Steven in Garnet, managing to draw a connection between the two through a shared location and a body language. Steven has about two sole scenes with both Greg and Garnet in this episode, and there’s an interesting parallel between the two. The first scene between both takes place on the stairs leading towards the Temple. With Greg, Steven begins several steps up while Greg remains on the ground below. Once Steven asks him about Rose and Pink Diamond, Greg begins climbing the stairs and Steven descends a few to join him, placing them on mutual footing with each-other. This scene ends with the two embracing in a hug, everything within this scene’s composition highlights the connection between Steven and Greg. Which not only makes the ending more devastating but is later contrasted when Garnet gets her first scene with Steven as he leaves the temple. Conversely to the prior scene, Garnet alerts Steven, who is situated halfway down the steps, from the top of the deck right before the stairs. Both of them remain stagnant in position and eventually only Steven moves, further descending the stairs while Garnet remains motionless in place, highlighting the distance this recent rift has caused. But these scenes don’t just communicate the current status of the relationship between the characters but the knowledge that each individually possesses about Rose Quartz and the Palanquin. Garnet’s positioned above the stairs because she’s knows exactly what’s going on, yet she finds herself incapable of divulging that information to Steven. Greg on the other hand is positioned below the stairs because he isn’t aware of the details that Steven is looking for, though he is more than willing to aid Steven when he needs it. Steven of course is stuck in-between, not being able to fully process the information he does have on Rose, with so much mystique and seemingly contradictions like Pink Diamond’s shattering surrounding her.
But back to the concept of utilizing those scenes to contrast and explore the relationships at that point, that idea is used later in the episodes with the roles reversed. While they don’t really share a common shot despite taking place in the same location, we get the opposite impression from both. Prior to Blue Diamond’s introduction, Steven’s steadfast approach to uncovering the Palanquin results in him disregarding Greg’s plea for them to at least take a break, citing that the mountain’s messing him up. It’s also worth noting that Greg volunteers to handle the Blue Diamond situation on his own, departing from Steven of his own volition. At the episodes conclusion, Garnet manages to capture the falling Steven, and the two embrace in a hug, acting as a continuation of the stairs scene by echoing the defining moment in the one with Greg. Blue Diamond’s character is likely still my favorite element of the episode but the visual storytelling in Steven Universe remains top-notch and this is easily one of the strongest examples in the series.