Conflicted Diamonds: How Steven Universe Made Its Villains Interesting (Part II)

Warning: This article contains huge spoilers for Steven Universe up to and including the most recent episode, “Reunited.”

Previously I wrote on how the introduction of Yellow and Blue Diamond, two of Steven Universe’s main antagonists, cemented them as credible villains. Now, I’ll examine how the show went on to portray them as more complex than they initially appeared.

The second appearance of Blue Diamond is markedly different from her scene in Garnet’s flashback (“The Answer”). In “Steven’s Dream,” Steven (with his dad, Greg, in tow) encounters Blue in South Korea, where she is seen mourning Pink Diamond. As far as she is knows, the weapon inside of the earth is still set to go off:

I should’ve done more. Yellow says it’ll all be over soon. I wonder what you would think. This is your planet, after all. I still think it is.

Finding Greg, the two briefly commiserate over their grief, him for Rose, and her for Pink. The fact that they are unknowingly talking about the same person makes it deliciously ironic in retrospect.

 

Feeling merciful, Blue whisks him away to Pink Diamond’s intergalactic zoo (later we find out the Zoo was Blue and Yellow’s attempt to placate Pink after she began to oppose Earth’s colonization):

You know, I really shouldn’t be here. But I’m glad I came back one last time. I can save one last piece of her legacy.

Blue obviously doesn’t regard Greg as anything approaching her equal. It is hinted in the series that “organic life” is considered a curiosity at best by the Diamonds. However, it is Blue’s motivation for taking Greg that is telling. Blue doesn’t understand why Pink cared for Earth’s lifeforms, but she knows of how important it was to her. Blue’s motivations here are very relatable, even if her actions (kidnapping someone and taking them across space to put them in a zoo) aren’t.

Steven sets off for the Zoo, and overhears a debate between Blue and Yellow. This is a key piece of character development for the two, and takes the form of a song, as befitting the show:

Once again, this makes Yellow more sympatheric. Yellow is begging Blue to move on from Pink’s death; though the line “Won’t it be grand to be rid of it all?” reminds the viewer that part of Yellow’s healing process involves the destruction of the Earth. The song also clearly shows that Yellow, while outwardly the more taciturn of the two, is still grieving.

In the interest of brevity, I am going to skip over the Diamond’s actions in “The Trial,” though that episode is important in that it shows Blue’s vengeful side (“I want to know what she thinks we’re going to do with her. Because I want to do something worse“). Instead, I’d like to conclude with by talking about two key pieces of dialogue in the latest episode, “Reunited.”

Seeking vengeance, Blue and Yellow arrive on Earth, not long after Steven learns that Rose (and, therefore, he) was Pink Diamond. The Diamonds turn out to be strong as heck, and have the Crystal Gems on the ropes following a really awesome action scene (seriously, just watch it yourself).

 

While unconscious due to a giant boot stomp, Steven enters a kind of mental projection plane, apparently an extension of his dream telepathy. Finding that he can hear the thoughts of those in the fight, as well as communicate, Steven attempts to convince Blue and Yellow that he is Pink. In the process of doing so, he hears the Diamond’s internal monologues. Yellow muses:

How miserable. I knew Pink couldn’t handle her own colony. But, I gave in. And now, I’m to blame for her fate.

While Blue thinks:

What good will any of this do? The more I make these Gems suffer, the more I long to see you again, Pink.

This level of introspection is pretty unique for villains, and it gives them quite a bit of depth. Their actions are not done out of mindlessness or evil, but for reasons that the viewer can understand. In the art book Steven Universe: Art and Origins Matt Burnett, a writer with the show (who has since moved on to helm Craig of the Creek) states:

I don’t know if the simpler cartoons we grew up with are directly responsible for that, but it can’t hurt to shade the world a little grayer for kids…It’s a challenging, nuanced idea, but I don’t think we should be afraid to challenge kids.

Steven ends up getting through to the Diamonds. When he awakes, the fighting has stopped and Blue and Yellow are looking at him in shock. The episode ends with Blue tearfully saying “It’s you…Pink!”

That’s were things stand now. It remains to be seen if Blue and Yellow will continue to be villains and whether they will regard the Earth differently. Then there’s still the unresolved issue of White Diamond, who has been subtly hinted at (appearing on murals along with Blue, Pink, and Yellow), but never mentioned. With the amount of twists and turns the show has taken, I’m not willing to bet on much (though we’ll probably get another song as Blue Diamond’s voice actress, Lisa Hannigan, is primarily known for her work as a singer songwriter).

In any case, I’ll be watching.