As many attentive Steven fans will know, anything that appears on a TV at the beginning of an episode will come back to haunt the characters in the most devastating way possible. Lonely Blade, Crying Breakfast Friends, even Dogcopter have all had surprising thematic (and occasionally plot) relevance whenever they show up. So when “Steven’s Dream” opens with Steven and Greg in the van watching a horror movie where cows are abducted by aliens, I really should have seen the end coming, but I didn’t—not even when the episode began with Steven uncontrollably crying.
The dream that gives this episode its title is really a vision, as a sleeping Steven sees a field full of dancing petals and a broken-down piece of Gem machinery. It’s a place that, at least at first, looks suspiciously like the field inside Lion’s mane. Greg wakes Steven up, worried by his son crying in his sleep. (Are Steven’s tears really such cause for alarm? He could have just been watching Steven Universe!) It’s a funny, slightly abstract moment, but everything gets serious when Steven asks his father about Pink Diamond. Zach Callison practically whispers, even though Steven and Greg are outside of the temple, out of earshot of the other Gems—did Rose ever tell Greg anything about Pink Diamond?
It turns out Greg never asked, because he didn’t want to know who Rose was, as opposed to the person she became when he knew her. “We both made a lot of mistakes when we were young. I thought disco was coming back, she started a war.” (Was starting the war really a mistake? Did Greg not hold on long enough to see disco’s influence on the last Daft Punk album?) Greg is probably emotionally correct to have avoided prying in the interest of being comfortable with his partner, though it incidentally came at the expense of Steven’s peace of mind and understanding of his mother. Neither of them is wrong here, which is the real strength of “Steven’s Dream,” a point strongly emphasized by Steven’s confrontation with the Gems.
Steven’s frustration over learning that Rose shattered Pink Diamond without getting the rest of the story has been simmering for a while now, and it finally boils over when he starts dreaming about the palanquin. (He and Connie have identified it in Buddy’s diary.) And surprisingly, Garnet is the one who freaks out the most (you would have expected it to be Pearl, right?). Over the course of this scene, she tries repeatedly to put her foot down on Steven investigating the site, using Pearl’s emotional state to guilt Steven into backing down and tiptoeing around what she sees with her future vision to the point where Steven is even further incited to find the palanquin. Garnet might be asking Steven to trust her, but this is the first time in a Gem-related conflict Steven has been able to fully say: “What about what I want?” And try as she might, this time Garnet can’t stop him.
Greg enlists Andy to take the Universe men to Korea, where the palanquin actually is, which mostly an excuse for an excellent, visually exciting tourist montage. During their trip, Steven and Greg try on some awesome fashions (what’s up, fan artists?), meet a bunch of old women who look like Steven, and find their way into an animation studio where someone is working on a drawing of Greg. (Meta!) This is very funny stuff, but it mostly serves as a contrast against the emotional content of the rest of the episode— because when they get to the palanquin, they discover Blue Diamond and her delightfully emo Pearl.
Played by Irish musician Lisa Hanniga, Blue Diamond’s tears turn out to be the ones infecting Steven’s eyes—she’s come to Earth one last time to say goodbye to Pink Diamond, before the planet is destroyed. (Presumably by the Cluster, though I suppose there could be a second weapon Peridot doesn’t know about.) It’s a bit of a bombshell to drop a new diamond on us like this, but even in her brief appearance Hannigan does an excellent job differentiating Blue Diamond from Yellow. Of course all of the diamonds aren’t insane villains. Instead, Blue Diamond is genuinely grieving a loss that, to her, has happened relatively recently. (Just like the Crystal Gems.)
And when Greg emerges to protect Steven—and, in true Greg fashion, effectively consoles and empathizes with this mysterious new Gem—Blue Diamond thinks she’s doing something magnanimous and respecting Pink Diamond’s legacy by saving one last human before the Earth disappears. This beneficent motivation doesn’t make the ending, and Steven’s futile attempt to float up and grab the ship, any less devastating. In fact, it’s even more effective, since everything would be much simpler in a straightforward, mustache-twirling villain kidnapping scenario. Instead, Blue Diamond doesn’t know what she’s doing—but Garnet does. Showing up to catch Steven, she apologizes and commits herself: They’re going to get Greg back.
- “Steven’s Dream” is storyboarded by Jeff Liu and Colin Howard.
- “Turns out they were abducting cows because they needed milk for their cereal planet.” What a twist in this horror movie! (The aliens here, too, had a less malevolent motive than otherwise might have been expected.)
- “Sorry, I’ll clean that up later!” Connie doesn’t get a ton of screen time in this episode, but Grace Rolek really makes the most of it.
- Why do we think Steven has this connection with Blue Diamond? This detail seems like it points back to the “Rose Quartz was somehow part of Pink Diamond” theory, but looking for any clarification of the relationship between the two before the show is ready to spell it out is starting to feel a bit like a lost cause. Any other ideas?
- Estelle, getting in the line delivery of the episode when she teases at the mystery of the palanquin: “Ah, shoot. Now I’ve made it more interesting.”
- Welcome back to another week of Steven Universe in the new year! I think we all needed this. See you tomorrow.