Steven Universe 5×28 Review: Escapism

escapism stevonnieSteven finds himself in a sticky situation in “Escapism,” the penultimate episode of Diamond Days.

“Escapism” picks up right where “Together Alone” lets off. Stevonnie is imprisoned, trying their shields and their canny to escape, but it just leaves them unfused and exhausted. Luckily Connie brought snacks, in case the Diamonds “forget” that organics need sustenance to live. She also has her phone, but there’s no reception on Homeworld. Steven dozes off as Connie strategizes, and he begins to astral project.

He realizes that’s the key to their escape, and gets comfy on Connie’s lap, settling in for a long nap.

(Thank goodness Steven is a prodigy at falling asleep, eh? First the Cluster, now this cluster, and still he can slip into dreamland at the drop of a shirt.)

Steven thinks about the things he loves about his home to summon a way to get to Earth within the “psychic ghost space.”

This was the first moment of “Escapism” when I began to weep.

Steven, my sweet boy. Steven, who loves video games and donuts and his hometown and his dad. He is fourteen years old. A little boy caught up in an intergalactic war because his mother was too selfish to tell the whole truth. His compassion is the sun, and anyone who lets in his warmth is better for it.

Earth is far from Homeworld. Steven speeds up his astral floating, but it’s too fast, and he can’t slow down. He crashes into his planet.

…and wakes up in a Watermelon Steven.escapism mask island

What a DELIGHT to return to Mask Island, to see how the Watermelon Stevens have been doing. Not so much for Steven-Steven, who just wants to get to Beach City to let Bismuth know that things are Not Okay on the diplomacy front. The warp was broken during the Malachite vs. Alexandrite fight (and could Steven-as-a-watermelon even activate it?), so he has to figure out how to cross the ocean to get back to Delmarva.

He encounters a group of Watermelon Stevens with stars painted on their bellies. They still seem to worship Baby Melon, from the original Watermelon Steven episode. He leaves them and comes across a group of spear-wielding Watermelon Stevens, with no stars. Their iconography is based on Steven from “Super Watermelon Island,” shield up and ready to fight. It’s very The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss; intentionally so, I have no doubt. Especially when the star-belly Watermelon Stevens come to “rescue” Steven from the spear-wielders, and the fruity folk have it out in a bizarre battle.escapism watermelon fight

Diamond Days will conclude with a four-part special called “Battle of Heart and Mind.” I believe that “Escapism” was about exactly that. The star-bellies, with their dogma of self-sacrifice, are Steven’s heart. He will put himself at risk to save the ones he loves, even when no one is asking him to – maybe especially then. His mind is the spear-wielders: this conflict with the Diamonds, he thinks, can only end in violence. Another rebellion, more Gems shattered, the Earth at risk once more.

But Steven ultimately unites the star-bellies and spear-wielders. How? By having them build something together. Something he explicitly could not achieve by himself.

Steven’s “Escapism” journey is not over yet. He must cross the ocean to Beach City, with storms and doldrums to hinder his progress. Not to mention, a giant sharkmelon, who smashes up Steven’s raft and bites one of his watermelon feet off.

escapism sharkmelon…Steven rids himself of that threat by being super nice and affectionate toward the sharkmelon, because even if he’s grown up a lot, he’s still Steven: sweet and considerate and only occasionally obnoxious.

But he has no raft left, just a piece of the mast to cling to. He only has one leg to kick himself to shore. The sun is hot and his body is made of fruit.

Deus ex Lion to the rescue. Their psychic connection is well-established and thank goodness it came in handy in the nick of time.

The eponymous song, first debuted on the Steven Universe Podcast a few months ago, begins. A soft, acoustic guitar, diegetically attributed to Greg strumming on the hill overlooking Beach City. AJ Michalka, the voice of Stevonnie, sings the lyrics, with Zach Callison (Steven) and Grace Rolek (Connie) singing backup vocals.escapism greg universe

Lion, Greg, and Steven-the-watermelon find Bismuth. Steven first attempts to draw the dire situation, featuring the Diamonds, the Crystal Gems, the tower he is imprisoned in – and, because it’s Steven, the Pebbles. Really, “Escapism” was a wallop of reminders about Steven’s character, in the small, wonderful ways the Crewniverse utilizes on episodes that are focused on character vs ones that are heavily plot-based.

When that doesn’t work, he writes: “Help! We need backup!” Greg and Bismuth understand his message at last, and Steven the watermelon falls back. And then he dies.

He was holding himself together just to get the message through.

Of course, Steven-the-boy wakes up in his physical form, still on Connie’s lap. Now he has to wait and see what happens next, which will hopefully be a daring escape with help from Bismuth, Peridot, and Lapis Lazuli (the latter two with newly regenerated forms! Will we get an intro update?)

There are many people who will feel underwhelmed by “Escapism.” After the high stakes hijinks of the preceding episodes, this one feels like a lull in the action. But it was necessary: a breather, some foreshadowing, a touch base with an important group of characters we hadn’t seen in two seasons.

This show is not called White Diamond. This show is not called The Crystal Gems. It’s called Steven Universe, and everything, everything, everything is ultimately about this one little boy, who makes the world a better place because he loves so much and so hard and so freely.

I know this is a television show. I know Steven is a fictional character. But I love him fiercely, and I just want him to be safe and happy. I want him to get to be a normal teenager, with no magical destiny sword of Damocles hanging over his head.

But we don’t get to choose our destinies. We don’t get to choose when the villains show up. We can only choose how we act when the time comes.

Whose side are you on?

Author: K-K Bracken

K-K Bracken grew up overseas and in the Washington, DC area, went to the Ohio State University to get her BA in English, and has been in Columbus, Ohio ever since. She is currently querying her first novel ORCHESTRATION under the name Bracken Beveridge. She is the founder and organizer for the first Steven Universe exclusive fan convention, Beach City Con.

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