This episode dives straight forward into one of the most tantalizing concepts that have existed essentially since the series premiered. And further more, they did it in the best way possible.
Of course, I’m talking about the fated meeting between mother and son. The idea of Steven interacting with Rose has always been an intriguing one, and as the series has continued to progress through Rose’s past which has constantly left Steven in conflict over his feelings towards his mother, it’s only become a more interesting idea. Though for obvious reasons, it’s an idea that should realistically have remained a dream. Rose, for all intents and purposes, is dead, even if that’s not technically the case in-universe. If Steven could just communicate with Rose basically whenever like Aang could with his previous incarnations, not only would that easily resolve the seasons prevalent thread but it would drastically weaken the real world connections and make the surrounding drama feel invalid. Thankfully, the show had a built-in solution dating back to the first half of season one, Rose’s room.
Probably the most compelling part of this episode in reflection is trying to determine just how accurate was the room’s depiction of Rose. ‘Rose’ and the room here both often visually reflected Steven’s on emotional state, whether it’s the peaceful and open sky field when Steven is satisfied with his mother he wants by his side, or the flurry of stormy clouds surrounding the mother he may actually have, so it’s not likely that the room had complete control over Rose’s actions here. However, I constantly refer back to the room’s official debut in “Rose’s Room” when Steve unintentionally simulates the entirety of Beach City. The only inhabitant in that simulation who properly functioned, a least for a while anyway, was Greg. I always interpreted this as the room being more familiar with Greg through Rose which would lend credence to the idea that the room would be utilizing its own data on Rose in part to aid with Steven but we simply don’t know how the room exactly functions to say for certain. It’s entirely possible Greg was the most normal simply because Steven has the strongest bond with him and with the task being too grand for the room, other character traits, predominately Lars who was the most out of character there, just didn’t survive with its processing power.
Regardless, this episode truly works well as a showcase of Steven’s complicated emotions towards his mother. As I’ve briefly mentioned earlier, both Rose and the environments change throughout to reflect Steven’s own emotional state, though there isn’t much I can personally add to what the episode showed. The visuals are incredibly overt, the catharsis of the rain during the final embrace included. I consider this a good thing, since Steven very rarely gets to open up like this (though outbursts like this have been becoming more frequent, like we saw in the “Steven’s Dream”) and being able to fully conform the locale to the mood of the scene heightens the weight of Steven’s internal struggles. It’s an effective combination and one that doesn’t require me to analyze in-depth to work.
While I won’t dwell on the visual components here, I will discuss the way Steven’s emotions on Rose waft throughout the episode. The longest duration of his time with Rose is spent with the idealized version cultivated from years of stories of the night perfect Rose Quartz. The heavenly version of Rose who would talk about the inherent beauty found in all the different sports created through the ages. The amount of time he spends in proportion to the others here is a good way to compliment just how long he believed this to be an accurate description of Rose, which is why the sudden shift in perspective operates as such a dramatic change in scenery and tone. In this way, the episode reminds us of Steven’s personal journey with his mother, as his opinions on her are dictated by the sources of information he has. Both Bismuth and Ruby delivered news that contradicted his own initial vision of her, and the war crimes committed has seriously warped Steven’s own thoughts on both his mother, and himself (in terms of his purpose). But what I like the most about this, is what pulls him through at the end, the one source of information he got directly from his mother. It’s not secondary sources that conclude the episode, it’s him remembering the one insight he got directly, the beautiful video message she left him in “Lion 3: Straight to Video”. Steven doesn’t necessarily walk out in the brightest outlook but his own feelings on Rose and her feelings towards him specifically are quelled for the time-being.
Aside from the main draw of the episode, there’s still a lot to discuss here. Much like “Mindful Education”, Connie’s own personal story is used to provide a set-up to Steven’s, though in a less direct manner here. Due to several unfortunate circumstances, Connie’s mom is late in picking her up, causing Connie to seriously worry that the worst has happened. These concerns are alleviated when her mother does show up, leaving Steven all alone. While his thoughts are quite different in nature from Connie’s, their still clearly being consumed by his own mother. I love that the series chooses to initially depict this through silence and simple glances. The only sound present being the roaring of the wind as a storm is rearing up outside. As Steven’s eyes constantly direct him towards Rose’s portrait, despite a rather delicious bowl of mac and cheese being right in reach, we’re provided all the information of his mindset solely through soaking up his actions. Later after finally going through his internal thoughts in a very external manner, he’s still left in a despondent state, until the family he does have come through with mushroom pizza. The silent beginnings correlate to the initial games the two played at first in order to distract Connie from his mother’s lack of punctuality. The room segment relates to Connie’s own direct stressing about the absence, and the endings both relate in self-explanatory ways. However, Steven’s own adventures in Rose’s room with Rose parallel Connie’s story even more directly. Initially the two play licensed games and sports, before the true weight of Steven’s thoughts break out. The final hug at the end would be something of an inverse of Connie’s resolution, while it’s a touching moment, Steven is left alone afterwards. This also extends to how phones were integral to both plot-lines. For Connie, her inability to reach her mother through the phone is what triggered her heighten concern, whereas for Steven the reminding that Rose isn’t really there is what caused for the shift in direction, as it broke him out of the recent happy delusion he briefly succumb to. It’s hard not to appreciate that the two stories are connected in structure, since it provides more purpose to three or so minutes we dedicated to Connie’s own issues than just to kill time.
The episode is also filled with plenty of solid jokes throughout. I think there are a few more misses early on with the ab-lid jokes being pretty weak but since those connect to Connie’s story fine I don’t have much to criticize. Steven is a spitfire of great one-liners in the first half, his space pun early on, especially with his proud posture as he delivers it, is killer. Though my favorite joke of the episode is the earlier line, “You wouldn’t believe how many of them it takes to screw in a lightbulb.” There were still laughs in the later half, Steven’s “Touchdown” line was a funny response to being Charlie Brown, and as someone who only has a cursory understanding of Football, I found it to be a relatable anecdote too. I admit I even got a chuckle over Steven’s admission that he’s considered dying his hair pink, as downright depressing as a statement that was. Rose’s “I’m not” reaction to Steven’s realization that she wasn’t his real mom was hilarious as a well. Finally, the rapid transition into the storm outside was really funny, only a slight drizzle then flash of lightning and it kicks in full gear, ruining the delicious mac and cheese. I liked how the model of this scene was replicated later with different implications. At the beginning it’s a part of a joke, but it’s role in the joke also served to instill it as a precursor to a storm, so it’s usage later in the episode foreshadows the depth of the emotional turmoil we’d seen on display from Steven.
Overall, “Storm in the Room” is one of the strongest episodes of season four. There isn’t a whole lot to discuss outside of the surface elements but when those particularly elements are emotionally evocative, serve well as an exploration on Steven’s feelings, and allow us to hear Susan Egan again, it’s impossible to consider that a flaw. And like I said upfront, depending on how Rose’s Room functions, there’s potentially a lot more interesting material here. In that case, the rain and hug could be something like Rose’s apology, with the rain symbolizing her tears and the hug her attempts at comfort, with the disappearance into clouds being used to highlight her absence. With the Tiny Floating Whale in “Rose’s Room” having her voice, I don’t rule that possibility out, and while I may personally lean-to that being the case, it’s still an interpretation that’s far less supported on evidence (and trust me, I’ve been dead wrong before on Steven Universe theories). So I can’t quite consider that a full part of the episode just yet but even without that potential aspect, it works really well as a showcase of Steven’s own personal journey in his developing relationship with Rose.