“Are You My Dad”

We pick up the day after “The Good Lars,” with Steven waiting eagerly by the mailbox for the khakis he ordered from The Distinguished Boy. (A store I really hope Steven gets to visit at some point in the future.) But the disappearances that have plagued Beach City have just ramped up—Jamie is gone, just like Onion, Lars, and Sadie.

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I’m sure getting rid of the humans of Beach City would be an improvement for some people who want the show to focus more heavily on Gem stuff, but it’s worth remembering that protecting his home is the only reason Steven is even invested in the war in the first place. Steven Universe can’t be all action all the time. And even if that’s what you want out of the show, it certainly looks like things are about to start heating up: We’ve got fresh antagonists!

After looking for the missing humans for a while, Steven encounters a new Gem: the girl with the water wings, who we later learn is Aquamarine—she is, apparently, looking for her dad. There are some pretty funny parts of the rest of the episode, especially an impromptu sketch contest Steven runs to make sure everyone knows what the new Gem looks like. (When Steven calls Garnet out for just drawing herself, she says: “Uh, I like me.”) So they split up to look for her and the other humans. As they approach Onion’s hideout in the woods, Connie raises the possibility that Aquamarine is another human-Gem hybrid, or at least organic-Gem hybrid. There’s a beat after she raises this possibility. Even if this new Gem doesn’t have a dad, isn’t it possible there could be someone else like Steven?

Connie’s theory is that the new Gem crash landed on Earth and was adopted by a human, which honestly isn’t the most implausible thing that could have happened. Sadly, it’s not the case—instead, Aquamarine is a pretty callous, high-level Gem sent directly by the Diamonds with her escort Topaz, an enormous Gem keeping the missing humans captive inside her body through fusion. (This is a whole new side to Gem mutant fusion body horror, and I am super into it.)

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“Are You My Dad” is definitely structured as the first part of a two-parter, so the bulk of the episode is spent waiting for Steven to actually meet Aquamarine, then realize that she’s the one who has been kidnapping his friends. Which is to say, it’s fine but not super thrilling. Once the waiting is out of the way, the Steven-Aquamarine showdown is pretty quick, with Topaz easily ensnaring Connie and Aquamarine using her ribbon as a weapon to freeze Steven. The episode ends with Steven passing out in a first-person shot, mirroring the way he was knocked out by Jasper in “The Return,” the most chilling introduction a villain has had thus far. If that parallel means anything, Aquamarine is going to be sticking around for a while.

Stray observations:

  • Steven asks if Sour Cream has looked for Onion in the secret room inside the house, to which Sour Cream hilariously responds, “You mean his office?”
  • Lars and Sadie were apparently watching a movie called Dream Ghost, which has a very funny Ghost-inspired cover. (“Dream Ghost” is also an excellent song from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.)
  • One of the games at Funland says, “Somebody punch me, please.”
  • How does everyone manage to not suffocate stuck inside of Topaz?
  • “Are You My Dad” is storyboarded and written by Raven Molisee and Lauren Zuke.

“I Am My Mom”

Picking up where we left off, Steven runs back to the temple to loop in Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. (Pearl, especially, is terrified of Aquamarine, who it turns out is a rather high-ranking Gem likely sent to Earth on direct orders from one of the Diamonds.) They realize that, since Navy took off with the Roaming Eye, they have no way of getting back to space. (Or, at least, they’d have to have another “Space Race”-style situation, which would take centuries.) If anyone gets taken by Aquamarine, it will be permanent.

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Connie’s phone directs them to Funland, where we get the bulk of the episode’s action, and our closest look at Aquamarine yet. The evil little girl isn’t exactly fresh territory, and while Della Saba’s performance is effective enough, it doesn’t quite differentiate Aquamarine from that trope enough to make her feel like a Steven Universe character, rather than someone who’s been imported from another show entirely. (Also, it’s kind of weird that she has a posh accent, but okay.) Still, it took Jasper a while to get fleshed out to the point where her inevitable redemption will make sense, so it’s worth giving Aquamarine some time. (Also, I’m a big fan of the tear placement of her Gem.)

More importantly, Aquamarine seems to be a bit of a sadist. Where Jasper is a self-described “brute” intent on proving her own strength through combat, Aquamarine simply wants to finish the mission, and delights in threatening to kill the hostages in order to achieve her goal. (Lapis definitely knows Aquamarine, right?) It turns out that list was created when Steven talked to Peridot, way back in “Marble Madness,” taking all of the types of humans Steven seemed to suggest existed.

Steven takes this super personally, even though there’s no way he could have known what Home World was going to do with the people he listed off in an effort to be friendly with Peridot. So he gives himself up as My Dad, uses his bubble to split up Topaz, and eventually ushers most of the humans off the ship, where Alexandrite is fused, waiting for them. (Everyone except a fearful Lars, who briefly stands in front of one of the Topazes holding Sadie, then runs away in fear.)

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Eventually, Steven decides he has to make the ultimate sacrifice and gives himself up as Rose Quartz, repeating his actions from “Bubbled.” By far the best moment of the episode is a single, composed shot of Steven steeling himself before turning away from his friends and family to give himself up to Aquamarine. Steven’s rounded character design has always made him look a little goofy, and given his attempts at composure a sort of farcical quality—but here, it’s impossible to not take him seriously, and to understand how big of a decision this is for him. He’s right: It might not be what Rose would have wanted, but this kind of gesture is exactly par for the course for Steven. The ship flies off, and the humans of Beach City and the Crystal Gems are left alone.

This is the first season of Steven Universe to truly end on a cliffhanger. Season one at least tentatively concluded Steven’s adventure aboard the Home World ship, while season two ended with Peridot’s full conversion to being a member of the team, before the Crystal Gems could take down Malachite or stop the Cluster. Last season ended with Steven trapped in space, only to be saved by Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. This season, however, ends with Steven willingly giving himself up to Aquamarine, on a course for Home World. What now?

Stray observations:

  • Connie’s ringtone for Steven is the music from “Alone Together.”
  • Jamie, upon seeing Garnet try to attack Topaz: “No, Garnet. I’ve moved on, I swear!”
  • Steven complains of Topaz “Her body’s so thick!” I am certain this line will show up in only the most wholesome corners of the internet.
  • There’s probably a bit more to say about the fight scene between the Gems and Aquamarine, but I found them screaming at Steven from the ocean a lot more emotional and effective. How are they going to respond when Steven comes back, knowing he was willing to make this kind of sacrifice?
  • “I Am My Mom” is storyboarded and written by Hilary Florido and Paul Villeco.
  • And that’s a wrap on season four!

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