Steven Universe 5×23: Reunited

reunitedAt their wedding, Ruby and Sapphire finally become ‘Reunited’ as Garnet… but then alien wedding crashers come to destroy the Earth. Can the Crystal Gems and the Cluster successfully face off against the Diamonds?

‘Reunited’ starts off in style with a musical number, and possibly one of the best we’ve had in the show so far. Starting as a somber tune as Steven reflects upon his mother’s history, then transforming into a cheery ensemble piece, “For Just One Day (Let’s Only Think About Love)” accomplishes a lot. In addition to clever lyrics and cute character moments, it manages to organically touch upon every plot point that returns in the next 22 minutes.

There is an awful lot I love in ‘Reunited’, and the only way I’m going to address them all is by switching to bullet points.

  • Everyone’s wedding outfits. From the return of the tuxedos, to Peridot’s buttercup yellow dress, to Bismuth’s super sharp full suit of armor… to, of course, the gender-role defying bridal gown and spiffy suit our star couple wears.
  • Ruby and Sapphire’s perfectly fitting wedding vows. Comedic and dramatic and utterly romantic.
  • Bismuth breaking into tears during those vows.
  • Peridot is the best flower Gem
  • All the refrains of “Stronger than You”<3
  • Garnet throwing the bouquet into the stratosphere… only for Bismuth to catch it a full 10 minutes later. (Inquiring minds want to know: who will be her love interest?)
  • Nanefua’s funky dancing with her bodyguards.
  • Pearl just casually chatting with Kiki. I know it’s a small moment but it’s been a very hard week, she deserves chill time, okay?
  • Bismuth looking very politely confused throughout her conversation with Ronaldo, who’s wearing matching anime armor.
  • Garnet picking Steven up and clutching her son to her chest as the two cuddle and exchange banter and my heeeeaaaarttt.

reunitedOh. And then Steven starts crying, because Blue Diamond is here to thrust her sadness onto everyone.

The ensuing battle is truly a masterful culmination of all five seasons of the show. Nanefua executes the city’s emergency plans as the Diamonds attempt to wake up the Cluster. But their plan backfires. Created out of the shards of fallen Crystal Gems, and made out of love for themselves and the Earth, the Cluster forms only a single massive hand, and enters battle with Yellow Diamond’s ship. It’s everything I could have wanted from that storyline. The zombified doomsday weapon fighting on behalf of itself and its friends.

Meanwhile, the Crystal Gems come together to face Blue Diamond on the beach, all while in their fancy wedding gear. When Steven’s first attempt at diplomacy fails, Alexandrite catches him in a mighty hand. When Blue Diamond’s depression wave leaves all the Gems literally incapacitated with sadness, Connie leaps onto Lion and rushes into battle herself–

— Only to be caught in Blue Diamond’s hand, and Rose’s sword shattered. Which believe it or not, made me cheer. I’ve long been saying Connie/Stevonnie deserves their own sword, one free of Rose Quartz’s legacy. And the obvious source of that new sword would be Bismuth, whose weapon upgrades for the Crystal Gems are back after a two season absence.

reunitedAnd, of course, the triumph of the fight! Garnet, made of love, fighting Blue Diamond’s emotional influence to march right up to her and hold her in place. When Blue smirks, asking what on Earth that will accomplish, Garnet reveals she was just keeping her opponent busy…

… long enough for Lapis Lazuli to drop the barn right on her head.

Because it turns out, Lapis realized she couldn’t abandon her friends. And years of dealing with her own intense depression means she can stand up to anything this tyrant can throw at her.

Reunited, the Crystal Gems fall into formation as one, and it is utterly beautiful.

But ultimately, they just can’t stand up to two Diamonds’ sheer power. Ultimately, Steven is rendered unconscious. Propelled into the astral world, he communicates with Connie, who swears to watch over his body. There’s a touching scene as his astral ghost hops through the minds of his friends and family, reassuring them and giving them the confidence to continue fighting.

He tries to make contact with the Diamonds, but the sheer weight of their emotions and mental blockades make it nigh impossible to get close. Eventually, though, awash in the power of the Pink Diamond gem, Steven makes contact with them, and implores them to stop fighting. Because they’re not enemies. They’re family!

And that’s where my feelings for ‘Reunited’ get complicated.

Let’s return back to the episode’s introductory song, because “Let’s Only Think About Love” perfectly encapsulates Steven’s attitude at this snapshot in time. I believe that attitude will be central to understanding his actions not only in this episode, but the ones to come. It begins slow and mournful, as Steven contemplates what he learned about his mother, and in the understatement of the year, calls it “a little bit upsetting”.

Steven doesn’t want to dwell on those emotions. He wants to think about the wedding, about love, and sunshine and flowers and family! And truly, there is nothing wrong with that in essence. A key part of looking after your mental health is focusing on positivity, and not dwelling on things which you can’t change.

But another key part of mental health is processing your emotions, and reflecting on them, especially when they stem from issues which might still hurt you in the future. ‘Mindful Education‘ made it perfectly clear just how far Steven will go to avoid doing that.

Perhaps even more worryingly, in this episode, he seems to be pulling his friends down the same path. Amethyst makes a bleak joke about roses. Steven tells her to focus on the here and now, and Amethyst almost immediately falls into step with him– hardly surprising, considering her speech back in ‘What’s Your Problem‘. She doesn’t want to think about this any more than Steven does.

Pearl, too, begins to confide in Steven about her guilt and discomfort, something she very much deserves to do. She spent pretty much the entirety of the last four episodes comforting her friends, not getting the chance to share how Rose hurt her. But in Pearl’s own words, she’s “very good at compartmentalizing“… So while she might be slower than Amethyst, she still puts on her top-hat and smiles for Steven.

Peridot is the most dramatic example of all of this. She stands by the empty hole where the Barn once stood, terrified of dying at the Diamonds’ hands. We hear Steven’s own desperation as his words rise to a crescendo as he refuses to think about his own pain over Lapis and the Cluster, instead grabbing Peridot by the hand and physically pulling her into the song’s grand finale.

In the best of circumstances, the Crystal Gems wouldn’t have to think about these terrible things. But by the end of the day, every single thing Steven tries not to sing about comes back. Lapis, the Cluster, Rose’s legacy, the risk of world destruction from the hands of the Diamonds.

But Steven? For just one day, he is only going to think about love. No matter what.

That is why he reaches out to the Diamonds. Frankly, I can’t blame him for trying. Steven is always one to explore the peaceful route, and trapped between two rocks and a hard place, it would have been foolish for him not to.

What I’m afraid of, however… is it working. Because what I don’t doubt is that the Diamonds will be overjoyed to be reunited with ‘Pink’ again. To discover that she never actually died (…well, eventually she did, but not to an assassin). But what I don’t want that to translate into is instant peace. After everything the Diamonds have done, and the sheer lack of care they have shown for any person who isn’t one of their own, achieving peace purely through Steven’s lineage would be a cheap, and indeed, harmful message. Real life fascists rarely stop simply because their nephew asks nicely.

But this could be a set up for an amazing finale. It could be the perfect way to force Steven to confront these things he’s been burying for so long. What if for a short while, it seems that everything with the Diamonds can truly be okay? But then… the cracks show. We remember why Rose became so desperate as to turn against them in the first place. How much can they actually accept Steven, a half-human hybrid? Friend of working Gems, defects, fusions? Someone who happily fuses himself?

It took Peridot a seven episode arc to grow into a Crystal Gem, and her development continued long after that. What happens when Steven comes face-to-face with people who have no reason to start down that road? ‘Reunited’ suggests it’ll be as simple as introducing Uncle Andy to the family, but I truly, truly hope we get a more complicated and nuanced reality.

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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