Season four finally concludes, leaving us with perhaps the strongest cliffhanger ending in Steven Universe’s history.
Despite being positioned as the season finale concluding on one of the most intriguing notes in the series history, there really isn’t much I feel the need to go over. This post will likely go on far longer than I imagined on the outset due to my incessant rambling but ultimately, I don’t find a whole lot necessary to discuss with this one. “I Am My Mom” is essentially Steven Universe in full plot mode, hitting beat after beat in fluid succession which is an entertaining affair in its own right, but not one I find particularly interesting to dissect. Thankfully, there exists one major exception to this, and that comes in the episode’s final moments.
Steven’s sacrifice isn’t just a great way to finish the season because it enhances the anticipation of season five’s premiere by like, ten fold, but also because it adroitly resolves the main emotional thread tying the entire season together. This is a topic I plan on delving into far deeper in a separate essay post if I can ever find the time for that, so I’ll keep this truncated, season four is about the dichotomy of Steven’s existence, using his parents to express each side of the coin that is his life. It’s about him settling on his identity, sparked by the unsettling reveal of Rose’s past transgressions. Since this was so heavily focused on, “I Am My Mom” was tasked with the job of both progressing the plot and establishing a resolution to Steven’s issues in order to be a fully satisfying conclusion. Not to say that Steven’s issues are entirely resolved but revealing himself as Rose Quartz certainly reads like a declaration of purpose, especially since he himself contrasts it by stating that he isn’t his dad before it. This is both a vital moment of character insight as it provides us Steven’s current perspective on his role but also a pivotal plot point, and the scene is certainly presented as such. I’m not particularly well-versed in describing music so forgive me because I have to try as I just love the backing track here. The swelling of the strings as Steven makes his declaration, followed by those chime-esque notes more typical of Steven Universe’s soundtrack after the reveal before the music settles back on a powerful but understated string piece. Despite just sounding good, what I love about this is brief intermission from the strings with those chimes, as it both punctuates the reveal but allows an emotional buffer as the news is processed, one that last until Aquarmarine’s Lantern Ring disperses. Using both the music and aforementioned the visual sequence as a way to allow the scenario to sink in for the audience, is something I really appreciate and pretty crucial in maintaining emotionally satisfying pacing.
Outside of that, the episode is definitely solid but not too much more to discuss. The most entertaining element left is the series continued dedication to continuity. For example the brief appearance of the spiked shield previously discovered in “Steven vs. Amethyst”. Jamie’s scared reassurance that he “moved on” from Garnet managed to be the episode’s comedic highlight. That or Lars’ brave stand-up before immediately chicken’in out and ditching Sadie when she needs him the most. As someone who has been a staunch defender of Lars in the past, let me just say I thought this was brilliant. Not only is it perfectly in-line with his prior characterization, even emblematic of his defining character flaw, but including anything else would’ve detracted from Steven’s moment at the end of the episode. It’s better that any break-through Lars may have be treated as the main attraction, rather than an after thought following Steven’s sacrifice. That tangent aside, the highlight of continuity came with the reveal that this list was provided by Steven himself, way back in “Marble Madness”. Just for perspective, that was episode forty-four, this was episode one hundred and twenty-eight. That’s over eighty episodes to bring back a singular scene up as a major plot point, something the series recognizes since it’s the only time time I can think of where they used a lengthy flash-back in order to make sure everyone’s informed (which was also presented as Steven remembering the event, so it also works on the level that it helps give us insight into his mindset, and just how much this reveal impacted him [which is displayed throughout the episode in much more obvious ways]).
Finally, the episode has some nice visual moments here and there with Aquamarine. Not only are her various expressions the best part of her character but the use of shading in several shots to display the more sinister side of the character are really great. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Della Saba’s vocal performance here, I absolutely loved the line-reading on Aquamarine’s “You’re ruining my moment”. With that off my chest, there really isn’t anything left I feel the need to discuss. I would still rank “Bubbled” as the best season finale Steven Universe has done yet (though I do prefer “Log Date 7 15 2” more as an episode, just not as a finale) but this does probably land as my second place, if only for the strength of the closing moments.