As the curtain closes on the “Out of This World” arc, the final act concludes on one of the high points in the whole series.
There is a lot to praise about this episode, it resolves the entire plot-line satisfactorily, allowing every character a moment to shine without ever rushing the material despite the magnitude of the story they needed to tell in only eleven minutes. Steven Universe’s sense of internal pacing has always been one of the series defining features. While several will criticize how long the series actually takes to further develop the Homeworld myth-arc, the episodes themselves rarely ever feel like they’re dragging on or moving to fast. Instead, individual episodes maintain a deliberate pace allowing them to inject enough humor and plot progression with a natural flow. Normally episodes contain isolated adventures though and while that’s technically true here, it’s just a far more connected act of a larger story, it’s still an impressive accomplishment how much they’re able to convey under the eleven minute format.
Of course, for all the great things this episode’s done, the conversation is going to rightfully center around the Diamonds. Not only did Blue Diamond show up, but Yellow Diamond followed suit, and the character development she received in a singular musical number exceeds what you can find in entire series. When she debuted in “Message Received”, Yellow Diamond’s character lacked any real depth, she was simply a bland commander/ruler villain. This is because the purpose of her introduction was to punctuate Peridot’s perversion from Homeworld norms and pledge her patriotism to the Crystal Gems. If my point got lost due to my ridiculous attempt at alliteration (oh god, I can’t stop), then allow me to clarify, Yellow Diamond debuted in order to help facilitate Peridot’s own personal growth and as a result, she herself was left without much character. To the point where I had even initially suspected that she was just trying to emotionally manipulate Blue but the second half of “What’s The Use of Feelng (Blue)?” definitely shot down that theory. Unless Yellow Diamond is a really convincing actor, and she’s not. If she was, simply being called a “Clod” wouldn’t have triggered such an intense reaction from her.
The reality of the situation is the Yellow Diamond legitimately cares about Blue Diamond, and herself is still grieving the loss of Pink Diamond. Both of them have two drastically different approaches to dealing with her ‘death’, both of which is highlight by the ending shot of both of their ships. Blue Diamond’s ship has the hand remained open, signaling how she insists on wallowing in Pink Diamonds memory, her legacy. The vulnerability of allowing the emotions to over take her. Meanwhile, Yellow Diamond’s ship has the first closed, the same way she prefers to distance herself from Pink Diamond’s memory, as she clearly expresses in her earlier performance. Despite this, much like Blue Diamond she is still attached to her, hence her appearance there in the first place, if just for her closeness to those also suffering from her loss.
“What’s the Use of Feeling (Blue)?” is truly a remarkable track from Steven Universe. The show constantly produces great songs so ranking them is a difficult process so I’ve never even attempted it but I can say without hesitation that this is without a doubt one of the best they’ve made. Genre preferences will obviously dictate your own opinion of the song but I love the slow build in the verses, the recurring hook line of “What’s the Use of Feeling”, the softer pre-chorus (“And we’re always thinking about her”), and how the songs begin and end with simple vocal hums (particularly how it opens with the Pearls and closes with Yellow, showcasing her growing personal investment as the pain of loss begins to surface for her). And it goes without saying the vocal performance is top-notch, Deedee Magno-Hall is the series top talent in that regard in my opinion but Patti Lupone is no slouch, and more than manages to carry the emotion of the track. Even disregarding the exemplary sound of the song, I don’t see how you can disparage its lyrical content, visual choices, and the characterization it provides for Yellow Diamond.
“What’s the Use of Feeling (Blue)?” is ostensibly about Yellow Diamond attempting to convince Blue Diamond to no longer wallow in misery, and while that’s true to an extent, it’s mostly a venting process of sorts. As Yellow Diamond looks out for her fellow Diamond, she herself is justifying her own process. I love the dual nature of the word “Blue”, as it both represents the emotional state as well as the character. The official lyrics according to the wiki always place a comma before “Blue”, seemingly implying that she was always referring to her fellow Diamond, but both interpretations of the word work in context (this is of course in response to the motif line, since in other instances she’s clearly referring to Blue Diamond). The most powerful aspect here is how the word “Blue” disappears at the end of the song, whereas earlier she is framing it as a semi-rhetorical question to Blue in order to get her point across, as the feelings dredge up her the perspective shifts to Yellow asking the question herself. Even if you interpret Blue as the emotional state, the loss of the word ends with the same impact. Instead of simply deriding the point of sadness, in her pain she ends up rejecting emotion entirely.
The depth she gains also re-contextualizes her former appearance in “Message Received”. In chronological order it appears that she is simply a control freak who gets incredibly heated the second a subordinate of hers disagree with her commands. It gave the impression of an emotional fickle boss who simply didn’t possess the ability to properly respond to criticisms due to her status preventing any employee from doing that previously. With this episode, we’re provided context that makes her outburst a little more palpable. She isn’t just angered because a Peridot is speaking out of her role but because a Peridot is vouching for planet Earth. For Yellow Diamond, Earth is no longer a source of valuable resources, it’s Pink Diamond’s gravestone. For her, having to constantly deal with Earth is akin to constantly reacquainting herself with the loss of a loved one.
Her development works so well because it’s cleverly contrasted with Blue Diamond, whom we spent the first episode of this arc getting to know. And this is where the color choices get a moment to shine. If anyone reading this has seen the movie Inside Out, you should already understand a good deal of how I feel about this. However, I don’t intend on spoiling that film so just know there’s a similar vibe with its color selection, and I wouldn’t be totally surprised if that movie ends up acting as somewhat of how this conflict would ultimately resolve for the Diamonds. Regardless, I bring this up because this isn’t the first time I’ve brought up Inside Out while talking about Steven Universe, as I’ve previously mentioned in my analysis and review of “Mr. Greg”. My initial thought with that episode was that the colors were meant to foreshadow some connection between Yellow Diamond and Blue Diamond but I didn’t think they would make a decision where the meaning is only apparent in hindsight so I continued to parse out the “Both of You” segment differently. While it does stand independently, it’s now unmistakable that the two scenes are connected through similar stylistic choices and meaning.
There are several interesting parallels worth mentioning between the two segments, the most obvious being the color palettes both employ. For starters, both Pearl and Blue Diamond dominated in blue, both being the more openly devastated by the lost while both Greg and Yellow were colored similarly as they’re seemingly better composed individuals. The reason I distinguished the wording between the two pairs is because Yellow Diamond isn’t actually shaded in bright yellow like Greg was. However, we’re all familiar with her decision and namesake, so the intention still carries and the reason why they didn’t just present her in her stark color like they did with Blue Diamond, is to form another color connection with the aforementioned “Both of You” number. During that sequence, the soles of Greg’s soles were colored pink in contrast to the rest of his and Pearl’s body, likely meant to visually symbolize that Rose ultimately chose him, not Pearl. This is why I believe Yellow Diamond is noticeably affected by the glow of all the imprisoned Rose Quartz, coloring her with plenty of pink during her appearance here, potentially hinting that she had a closer relationship to Pink Diamond than Blue Diamond. This is further supported by the fact that Yellow Diamond is more earnest in her feeling and starts backing away in a more emotional state after the two share a more intimate hand gesture, something that the series has previously tied to emotional connections before in “Rose’s Scabbard“.
The biggest distinction between the two numbers comes from the perspective from which it’s sung. Both songs are essentially healing from the loss of a loved one, while in Greg and Pearl it’s more overtly about their relationship drama and this one only features that in a subdued manner. The dialogue the two exchange prior to the song is more aggressive and neither seem to empathize with the others process. Whereas afterwards the two are on the same level, with Blue extending a comforting hand to Yellow and Yellow reciprocating by stating there’s still time to fill the Zoo before Earth is gone. Essentially a compromise, allowing Blue to keep something to attach to Pink Diamond while Yellow gets to bid the greatest reminder goodbye. But back to my initial point, in “Both of You” the healing is facilitated through Steven Universe, a figure that represents their mutual love in a positive way that allows mending. In “What’s the Use of Feeling (Blue)?”, they don’t have that luxury (White Diamond, where you at?) so instead it’s from the perspective of those in need of healing. This change makes this song more emotionally vulnerable, which is appropriate considering their circumstance is more drastic than Pearl and Greg’s. They weren’t left with anything to help them process their feelings like Steven, so they have to rely on their own tangled feelings, turning them into two of the most interesting villains in Steven Universe with a singular song. I’m really eager to see how their story-line plays out, and particularly what role White Diamond plays into the Diamond dynamic. The series commitment to imparting all their characters with depth will always be one of its strongest quality.
I should probably discuss some of the material that existed outside of the three-minute Diamond sequence. Since this post is already excessively long, I’m only going to briefly gloss over the important details I haven’t covered yet. First of all, Amethyst being so easily accepted by the other Quartz (mostly Amethyst’s) is the best decision the show could’ve made. Not only does it allow for an easy out for Steven and Greg but it has to alleviate some of Amethyst’s own concerns previously established in last season. As opposed to the last interactions she had with a Quartz in Jasper, Amethyst is treated as a welcome addition. She fits perfectly with her kind, which is in direct opposition to her previous belief that she was a failure. Garnet and Pearl also received cathartic moments against Holly Blue too, Garnet’s was mostly a pretty funny punch fake-out while Pearl’s was an awesome funny talk-down. Seeing her verbally destroy Holly Blue’s plan to inform the Diamonds while wearing some of the best smug faces in the series is exactly why Pearl is my favorite character. The episode ends on a genuinely sweet moment between father and son. Resolving the “Out of This World” story arc, with a fitting conclusion befitting probably my second favorite StevenBomb yet.