Connie and Steven’s friends are trapped inside a Topaz fusion, ready to be sent to the human zoo, and the Crystal Gems have no means of following them. The only thing keeping Aquamarine from blasting off immediately is her search for a final human, ‘My Dad’, who doesn’t actually exist. In “I Am My Mom”, Steven sets off on a mission to save them, and is victorious.
… but it’s a Pyrrhic victory.
From the very start of the episode, the odds are completely stacked against the Crystal Gems. Connie is almost completely immobile, only able to use her phone to send Steven clues to track her. The Topazes (and their fusion) are literally huge, menacing threats, and the way her body is literally riddled with her human captives makes it practically impossible for our heroes to attack her without risking the hostages’ lives.
For all that, though, it’s clear that the Topazes aren’t the real villains. They’re just muscle, with no agency of their own. Topaz even shares a brief moment with Onion, which suggests that perhaps she has some sympathy for the humans. No, the true threat is Aquamarine who, with the personality of a bratty, overachieving child, makes for a scarily detestable villain. Her gemstone is a teardrop on the cheek, which did a great job of making her look like a cute little girl at first… but that tattoo design is used by real prisoners to mark murderers. It’s use here is justified. The scene where she coldly threatens to have Jamie’s head crushed is horrifying.
Steven does what he can to outmatch her, utilizing an admittedly clever plan to pose as ‘My Dad’, get absorbed by the Topaz fusion, and burst everyone out using his bubble. Unfortunately, the kid is seriously not in the best mental state. After discovering he himself accidentally gave a ‘list’ of humans to abduct to Peridot alllll the way back in “Marble Madness”, he’s so consumed with guilt that he doesn’t even try to form Stevonnie, despite Connie immediately urging him. Not that their fusion could have done much. Aquamarine’s wand is insanely powerful, capable of holding even Alexandrite immobile.
(That said, I still think that if Lapis and Peridot had been here, their water and metal powers combined probably would have been enough to turn the tide. Of course, their presence would have broken the plot, so none of the characters thought to get their help.)
Incredibly outmatched and knowing Aquamarine could easily take all his friends, human and Gem alike, Steven comes to a decision:
“I’m not my Dad. I’m my mom. I’m Rose Quartz.”
It’s a good old fashioned heroic sacrifice, trading himself for the others. But it’s more than that, too. Steven has struggled and struggled with his relation to his mother, and here, he truly seems to embrace that they are, on some level, the same person. He considers himself the same being who killed Pink Diamond. And while Garnet explained the necessity of that murder, it still clearly doesn’t sit right with him. It seems that Steven might even feel he deserves to be judged by Homeworld, and receive the punishment they give him.
“I love you.” The tears in Steven’s eyes as he says this, looking back at his family for what he must think is the final time, makes it clear what he expects that punishment to be.
There’s just one little hitch to this whole thing. Not all the humans got off the ship before blasting off. A single person remains. Lars.
I’ve written before about the frustrations I’ve had with Lars’ character development… or lack thereof. I was fully on board at first, appreciating that the writers were choosing to show how in reality people don’t change overnight, and overcoming personal issues can be a slow and painful process. But that process began to drag on and on, becoming too long. Lars became a cartoon Sisyphus, constantly re-learning the same lessons– be nicer, be honest, open up to others– and constantly ignoring them again and again. It was all incredibly frustrating
Here, Sadie reaches out to Lars, begging for help– and Lars rejects her, running away instead.
You can’t really blame him. No way he could have done anything against the hulking Topaz. But Sadie takes it personally, and the expression in his face suggests that this is the point where she– and the audience– have finally given up on Lars.
It’s not time to give up, though. In running away, Lars merely succeeds in trapping himself inside the ship. While every single one of Steven’s other friends, the ones who did stick together and try to fight, are freed and left behind on Earth, Lars alone is the single one who’s taken captive with him. So finally he’s been placed in a situation where either her must develop as a person… or doom himself and Steven.
Will he be able to make the right decision? Well, this is Steven Universe. I’ll eat Aquamarine’s wand if we don’t see a Steven+Lars fusion– ‘Stars’– within the next five episodes.
Author: Laura B
Lover of fantasy and science fiction, fascinated in how they impact the real world. Professional writer and science communicator.
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